The war on the opioid epidemic is heading to the courtroom. Massachusetts is suing the makers of OxyContin in a new suit, naming both the company that manufactures it, Purdue Pharma, as well as 16 of its executives. The state’s complaint suggests that current and former board members deliberately deceived doctors and their patients about the risks of the drug.
Massachusetts Gets Tough on the Opioid Epidemic
A state official spoke at a recent news conference regarding the lawsuit. The public statement revealed that Purdue Pharma’s leaders knew about the risks that opioid pharmaceuticals posed to patients and deliberately minimized those risks to fuel their greed. It was also suggested that their concern for making money off of their opioid-based products caused more people to die.
Massachusetts officials feel that the pharmaceutical company engaged in a marketing strategy that cost them billions, all intended to minimize or hide the true risks of OxyContin and similar drugs. The OxyContin lawsuit is based on the fact that Purdue Pharma pressured doctors to prescribe higher dosages of the drug. The company’s objective was to keep patients addicted to the drug for longer periods of time, so the company could maximize its profits. The strategy paid little regard to the cycle of addiction the drug caused, which often ended in fatal overdoses for many patients.
Massachusetts officials report that five people die of opioid overdoses every day in the state and court documents indicate that Purdue Pharma should be held answerable for the role they play in causing those deaths.
Purdue Pharma Put Profits Ahead of Lives
The court brief is much more detailed than any public remarks, consisting of an 80-page complaint that lists how Purdue Pharma and its executives caused a spike in the opioid epidemic. The brief uses research from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, which reveals that over 11,000 people have died from opioid overdoses in just the past 10 years. Of those deaths, almost 2,000 of them occurred in 2017. While not every death can be attributed to Purdue Pharma’s tactics, the OxyContin lawsuit does share that 671 of those deaths were the result of prescriptions filled for opioid drugs manufactured by Purdue.
According to state officials, the lies perpetuated by the pharmaceutical company were intended to keep doctors and their patients from exploring less perilous options. The lawsuit hopes to show that the executives were aware that their customers were developing life-threatening addictions, but continued to view them as targets for their marketing ploys.
This isn’t the first time Purdue has faced a lawsuit. In 2007, the company pled guilty to misbranding OxyContin. Since that incident, the current lawsuit acknowledges that company executives have met with doctors, pharmacists, and other prescribers in over 150,000 separate meetings, suggesting the company had plenty of time to come clean about the real dangers their opioid-based drugs posed to patients.
The current OxyContin lawsuit sets a unique precedent. It marks the first time a state has specifically named a pharmaceutical company’s executives in a lawsuit.
In response, Purdue Pharma has issued a statement of its own, expressing their own concern about the opioid epidemic. The statement also suggests that the lawsuit brought about by the state of Massachusetts is clouding the real problem, adding that they work cooperatively with every state. Supporting that claim, Purdue has stopped promoting OxyContin to doctors.
Purdue’s efforts may be too little too late. In addition to multiple countries, hundreds of U.S. cities and 12 states have initiated OxyContin lawsuits against the company. Governor Baker points out that the crisis caused by Purdue’s actions became obvious by the early 2000s, but Purdue executives chose not to act. Instead of taking actions to help, the pharmaceutical company redoubled its marketing strategies.
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