Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro sues “big pharma” over opioid addiction epidemic

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced Tuesday the state has filed a lawsuit against the creator of OxyContin – Purdue Pharma.

The suit accuses the company of a multi-faceted, illegal effort to market the prescription painkiller in Pennsylvania.

It’s not the first suit filed against Purdue Pharma, but Shapiro says it’s the first to specifically detail the companies sales plan targeting Pennsylvania doctors in their efforts to push the addicxtive opioids on Pennsylvania consumers.

The suit alleges that Purdue’s sales force completed 531,000 visits to doctors’ offices and pharmacies in the Commonwealth, pushing OxyContin to doctors who overprescribed and even illegially prescribed the painkiller.

“Our communities and families have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, which takes 12 Pennsylvania lives per day,” said Shapiro in announcing the suit.

“There is nothing natural about this epidemic,” he continued “it was manufactured in part by Purdue Pharma, as the company deceptively marketed OxyContin despite knowing the risk of addiction.  While Pennsylvania paid the price, Purdue made more than $35 billion in revenue.”

Governor Tom Wolf was quick to throw his support behind what will be a costly lawsuit to litigate.

“Purdue Pharma preyed on Pennsylvanians of all types, including the elderly and patients already strugging with opioid use disorder,” said Wolf. “By creating a revolving door clientele that endlessly sought an increasing amount of opioides prescribed by doctors who were deliberately fed misinformation by Purdue Pharma,this deplorable company contributed to a cxrisis that has negatively impacted the lives of all Pennsylvanians.”

In the suit, the state alleges that:

– Purdue deployed their highly trained sales staff to blanket Pennsylvania, making sales calls and in-person visits to physicians, totalling more than half a million visits in Pennsylvania alone, an amount second only to California.

– Purdue targeted Pennsylvania doctors with suspicious prescribing activity and would invest more sales force and marketing to get those doctors to prescribe even more OlyContin – sometimes resulting in as much as a 500% increase in OxyContin Prescriptions by one office alone.

– Purdue misinformed doctors and pharmacists about the addictive nature of OxyContin and used industry thought leaders and in-house marketing literature to dispel facts about the drug.

– As the opioid epidemic grew, Purdue created “pseudo-addiction,” a Purdue-conjured disease that showed similar equities as addiction but was to be treated, according to Purdue, with additional opioides.

In mid-March, Purdue Pharma’s Chief Executive, Craig Landau, told The Washington Post the company may opt to file bankruptcy in order to protect itself from the potential legal settlements or jury verdicts which are predicted to run into the tens of billions of dollars.

Purdue is one of a number of defandants in a separate Oklahoma state trial scheduled to begin May 28th, the first jury trial on whether drug companies bear responsibility for the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit is the result of an investigation that Pennsylvania began leading with 40 other states in 2017 into six opioid manufacturers – Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical, Allergan Inc., and Purdue Pharma as well as three distributors – AmerisourceBergan, Cardinal Health and McKesson.

Earlier this week Pennsylvania was among the more than 40 states filing a separate suit against Teva Pharmaceuticals, 19 of the nation’s largest generic drug manufacturers and 15 individual senior executive devendants alleging a consipiracy to artificially inflate and manipulate prices, reduce competition and unreasonable restrain trade for more than 100 different generic drugs.

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