The state of New York has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma claiming the pharmaceutical company intentionally triggered the opioid epidemic by way of their marketing campaign.
Purdue Pharma recently settled a similar lawsuit and agreed to pay the state of Oklahoma, while a number of other similar lawsuits are pending in courts across the country.
OxyContin Marketing Called into Question
According to the New York lawsuit, Purdue Pharma’s marketing of its OxyContin painkiller triggered the addiction epidemic faced by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the state. The complaint also includes Purdue’s competitors and distributors, including Cardinal Health Inc. and Johnson & Johnson and claims the companies “pushed doctors to issue prescriptions.” Purdue also allegedly lied about the risk of addiction to OxyContin and ignored issues linked to “suspicious pharmacies.”
According to New York Attorney General Letitia James, Purdue Pharma and others named in the lawsuit “put profit over patients…” and “… profited off the suffering and death” of New York residents.
The lawsuit could potentially push Purdue Pharma into bankruptcy.
Purdue Pharma’s Sackler Family Named in Lawsuits
The New York lawsuit was recently amended to include the Sackler family. Various other state and local governments have also targeted the Sackler family’s wealth in an effort to recoup billions spent on the social costs of opioid addiction. The Sacklers have also been sued by a group of more than 500 cities and counties, in a case filed in New York, and in the state of Massachusetts.
According to claims in the lawsuit, Richard Sackler, who was Purdue Pharma’s Chief Executive Officer, was quoted as describing during the 1996 launch party for OxyContin a “blizzard of prescriptions that would bury the competition” and called the metaphorical blizzard “… so deep, dense and white.”
Among the accusations in the complaint is that the Sackler family “illicitly transferred funds from Purdue Pharma” to their own personal trust to avoid paying restitution.
The family continues to deny wrongdoing, but the accusations have had an effect. Some in the art world to protest museums that have received donations from the Sacklers.
Cardinal Health Accused of Supplying OxyContin to Suspicious Pharmacies
New York’s lawsuit also names Cardinal Health, a pharmacy in the state accused of being the biggest distributor of opioid drugs in the state since 2010. The company repeatedly sent medication to pharmacies, even after several of those pharmacies had been flagged as suspicious. The complaint alleges that Cardinal Health disregarded concerns expressed in-house by its employees and did not properly train sales reps or compliance personnel.
In its defense, Cardinal Health claims it cares about the opioid epidemic facing the nation and believes that too many prescriptions have been given over the last 10 years. The company claims it has attempted to fight back against the problem by “raising awareness about the dangers of over-prescribing.”
More than 1,600 suits against opioid makers have been consolidated in federal court Ohio, and other cases are pending in state courts.
Purdue has neither confirmed nor denied that it believes there to be an opioid epidemic but has pointed out that OxyContin accounts for less than two percent of all opioid prescriptions in the United States.