New York Sues Purdue Pharma Over Opioid Marketing

By Maggie Ethridge 08/17/18

New York plans to work with other states that are investigating opioid manufacturers and distributors in the US.

Image: 
a lawyer signing a document that says lawsuit.

This week, New York became the 27th state to sue Purdue Pharma, a producer of OxyContin, for alleged fraud and deception in its marketing of opioids.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Purdue is the only defendant listed in the lawsuit, driven by the administration under Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood.

The complaint was filed in Suffolk County Supreme Court and charged that a community flooded with opioids has been devastated while Purdue has increased profits and prescriptions.

The suit charges that as of 2016, over 75% of New York’s opioid overdose deaths were caused by painkillers which include Purdue’s product, OxyContin.

Governor Cuomo was quoted in Insurance Journal as saying, “The opioid epidemic was manufactured by unscrupulous distributors who developed a $400 billion industry pumping human misery into our communities. This lawsuit sends a clear message (to those) who mislead the public to increase their profit margins that we will hold you accountable.”

Purdue released a response which called New York’s allegations false, while citing that the company also shares the state’s concerns about the opioid crisis.  

Purdue noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) “continues to approve” of scientific and medical information it provides to physicians.

In the suit, New York is seeking civil fines to be levied against Purdue. The state asks to recoup profits the drug company has made and pay fines for what they allege in the Insurance Journal is “criminal nuisance.”

In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to misbranding OxyContin. The company was charged with $634.5 million after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

The New York lawsuit against Purdue is part of a trend; a number of U.S. states are suing opioid makers and distributors over opioid marketing.

New York joined 26 other states, and Puerto Rico, in suing Purdue over their allegedly deceptive opioid marketing practices and the resulting health crisis.

Cuomo released a statement published in the Wall Street Journal that the country is fed up with the practice of pharmaceutical companies purposefully creating addiction for the purpose of profit.

Barbara Underwood in the Wall Street Journal said that the complaint is only New York’s first step toward holding pharmaceutical companies responsible. “Our work won’t stop with this lawsuit,” she said.

New York plans to work with other states to investigate United States opioid manufacturers and distributors.

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Maggie May Ethridge is the author of Atmospheric Disturbances: Scenes From a Marriage (Shebooks, 2014) and the recently completed novel, Agitate My Heart. She is a freelance writer published in Rolling Stone, VOX, Washington Post, The Guardian and many others. Find her at her blog Flux Capacitor or on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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