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State files charges against Purdue Pharma over opioid crisis

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“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bullseye of the target,” said New Jersey Atty. General Christopher Porrino
“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bullseye of the target,” said New Jersey Atty. General Christopher Porrino - ()

New Jersey has filed a five-count lawsuit against Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma for alleged improper marketing practices related to its opioid-based painkiller, oxycontin.

The state’s Attorney General, Christopher Porrino, alleges that Purdue pressured its sales force into aggressively and deceptively market opioid-based pain killers in the state, and that its marketing push between 2008 and 2015 helped directly lead to the opioid crisis in the state. The 100-page charge was filed in Essex County court on Oct. 31.

The state has retained Newark-based Keefe Law Firm and Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in New York and to assist in the case.

“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bullseye of the target,” said Porrino in a press release. “Today, my office took the first step toward holding them legally and financially responsible for their deception…In a campaign of almost inconceivable callousness and irresponsibility, we allege that Purdue has spent hundreds of millions of marketing dollars to downplay the addiction risk associated with taking opioids for chronic pain, all the while exaggerating the benefits of using these dangerous drugs.”

The complaint charges that Purdue manipulated the public and even the medical community to embrace the view that pain was undertreated and that opioids should be the first-line solution for patients suffering from chronic conditions such as moderate back pain, migraine headaches and arthritis. The complaint alleges that Purdue aggressively marketed its opioid-based painkillers – particularly oxycontin – as safe and effective treatments for chronic pain. It also alleges Purdue failed to disclose that it had no studies to support the efficacy or safety of opioid medications for treatment periods longer than 12 weeks. 

Purdue, in an emailed response, denied the allegations.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge,” the company statement said. “Although our products account for approximately 2 percent of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

In addition to Purdue Pharma, the state also named Purdue Frederick Co. as a defendant. The state’s complaint includes three counts alleging violations of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and one count alleging violations of the New Jersey False Claims Act.  It also charges a fifth count of Creating a Public Nuisance. 

The lawsuit comes a week after the city of Patterson filed charges against several pharma companies, including Johnson & Johnson, for similar reasons.

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Vince Calio

Vince Calio


Vince Calio covers healthcare and manufacturing for NJBIZ. You can contact him at vcalio@njbiz.com.

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