22 U.S. states have filed lawsuits against pharma companies involved in opioid epidemic
Six more U.S. states have announced lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, bringing the total number of state-level lawsuits to 22. The states are accusing the pharmaceutical company of contributing to the nation-wide opioid epidemic with misleading marketing.
U.S. state attorneys general from Nevada, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota, and Tennessee say the company has violated state consumer protection laws by falsely downplaying the addiction risk of opioids while simultaneously overstating the drug’s benefits.
“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi told a press conference.
Florida also launched lawsuits against several other pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Mallinckrodt, as well as distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKesson.
In response to the announcement, The Healthcare Distribution Alliance, an umbrella group representing drug distributors, released a statement calling the allegations as an attempt to “redirect the blame”. They also said the claims represent a lack of understanding about how the pharmaceutical supply chain functioned.
“Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation,” John Parker, the organization’s senior vice president, said in a statement.
The latest lawsuits join litigation already filed by 16 other U.S. states, as well as Puerto Rico.
Purdue denied the claims in the suits, saying its drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and only accounted for 2% of all opioid prescriptions.
“We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” Purdue said.
In February, Purdue announced it would halt its promotion of opioids to physicians after widespread criticism for the company’s marketing strategies.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids contributed to more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016 alone.
In addition to the state-level lawsuits, 433 individual cities and counties have also been filed against pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, and Endo International Plc. These lawsuits were recently consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio.