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Purdue Pharma, Richard Sackler Sued by Five State Attorneys General Over Opioid Epidemic


Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical company that manufactures OxyContin, is facing another legal battle for its role in perpetuating the nation’s opioid epidemic.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a lawsuit against the company and its former chairman Richard Sackler on Thursday morning. Morrisey filed the lawsuit with the attorneys general of Kansas, Maryland, Iowa, and Wisconsin joining as Plaintiffs.

The lawsuit accuses Purdue and Sackler of exacerbating the opioid epidemic by engaging in deceptive and  illegal marketing tactics by knowingly misrepresenting Oxycontin’s potential for abuse. The suit accuses Purdue of creating a false narrative in aggressively marketing the drug as safe to prescribers of the opioid, even employing the motto, “we sell hope in a bottle.”

The AGs also allege that Purdue’s sales representatives were trained and encouraged to lie about the drug’s potential for abuse, “representing without qualification that OxyContin did not have a dose ceiling.”

“This lawsuit reveals many years of painstaking investigation,” Morrisey said in a statement released Thursday. “The senseless death and ruined lives of untold thousands must stop. Our complaint alleges that the company used false and misleading information to deceive medical personnel and patients. They must be held accountable.”

While all five states have been among the hardest hit by the epidemic, West Virginia has been particularly ravaged by opioid-related deaths, suffering the highest overdose rate in the country at 37.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

This is not the first time that West Virginia has sued Purdue, having previously filed suit against the drug maker in 2001 (over a previous formulation of the OxyContin drug) which concluded in the state winning a $10 million settlement.

Despite Sackler’s attempts to rehabilitate public perception, Thursday’s lawsuit was just the latest salvo in the nation’s backlash against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.

A similar lawsuit was filed Wednesday by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, accusing the drug manufacturer of deceiving prescribers of OxyContin’s potential for abuse with more than 500,000 instances of misleading messages aimed at Pennsylvania doctors.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced Wednesday it will no longer accept gifts from members of the Sackler family, effectively severing ties from one of its most prolific donors.

[screengrab image via Purdue Pharma]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.