New Jersey Sues Purdue Pharma Over ‘Direct Link’ To Opioid Crisis

By Kelly Burch 11/07/17

At least 11 states have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma because of the company’s marketing practices around opioids.

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New Jersey has become the latest state to file a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of the powerful opioid OxyContin, alleging a direct link between the company’s marketing practices and the opioid epidemic. 

“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bullseye of the target,” New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a press release. “Today, my office took the first step toward holding them legally and financially responsible for their deception.”

The lawsuit alleges that Purdue aggressively marketed OxyContin and other powerful opioids as safe and effective, despite lacking data on whether they were safe to use for longer than 12 weeks. Studies have since shown that long-term opioid use is associated with a high risk of becoming dependent on the drugs. 

“In a campaign of almost inconceivable callousness and irresponsibility, we allege that Purdue has spent hundreds of millions of marketing dollars to downplay the addiction risk associated with taking opioids for chronic pain, all the while exaggerating the benefits of using these dangerous drugs,” Porrino said. 

“We allege that this fraudulent conduct has not only given false hope to many pain patients, it has led to addiction, overdose, and death. It also has cost the State hundreds of millions on opioid prescriptions and the broader health and social effects of overprescribing. Many of these prescriptions never should have been written,” he continued. 

The lawsuit states that Purdue paid medical spokespeople to push the company’s claims about its drugs, and also set high sales goals, creating a culture in which doctors wrote pain medication prescriptions with abandon. 

“Prescribing opioids for routine chronic pain is dangerous and, in many cases, inappropriate,” Porrino said. “However, in New Jersey and across the nation it became mainstream medical practice and the treatment of first resort. How did that happen? It happened because certain companies within the pharmaceutical industry saw a chance to grow their profits by peddling extraordinarily potent, highly-addictive opioid drugs for routine pain. We allege that Purdue Pharma was chief among these opportunistic and predatory companies.”

According to Reuters, at least 11 states have sued Purdue Pharma because of the company’s marketing practices around opioids. That includes Alaska, which also filed a lawsuit last week. Cities around the country have also sought legal action against the drug manufacturer.

In addition, Purdue officials pled guilty in 2007 to federal charges that the company misbranded OxyContin, paying out $634.5 million in fines to the federal government.

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.