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Camden files charges against opioid makers under organized crime statutes

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Camden County has filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma LP, manufacturer of opioid-based painkiller oxycontin, and other pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids.

This suit is unique in that Camden County is filing it under racketeering statutes – laws typically associated with the prosecution of organized crime – claiming that the drugmakers “owned and operated a criminal enterprise that marketed and shipped millions of highly addictive narcotics throughout the nation including Camden County.”

The lawsuit names the estate of the company’s founder, Mortimer Sackler, as well as his son, Dr. Richard Sackler, as defendants. Richard Sackler is the former president of the company and currently resides on its board.

Other defendants in the case include Abbott Laboratories, Cephalon, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Defendant Endo International. The suit also lists Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Insys Therapeutics and Mallinckrodt as distributor defendants.

“We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Purdue Pharma

The suit was announced Wednesday by Camden Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr.

“These individuals [members of the Sackler family] were knowingly poisoning our families and children and doing it all under the guise of pain management, when we really know it was all based on greed,” Cappelli said in a press release. “This was a transparent flooding of the marketplace going to 1995 when the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] approved Oxys and has ended with their latest announcement that Purdue will no longer market this deadly addictive narcotic.”

Purdue Pharma issued a statement following announcement of the lawsuit.

“We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution,” the statement said. “As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge.

“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 partnered with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. 

“We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

Lawsuits accusing opioid manufacturers of utilizing allegedly deceitful marketing practices have become common as the opioid epidemic continues to rage. New Jersey’s attorney general filed one against Purdue in October for that reason.

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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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