Colo. suing OxyContin creator for role in crisis
Former company exec patents drug to wean addicts.
The attorney general’s lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma misled doctors and patients about the addictive power of opioids.
Following hundreds of lawsuits over the years against pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma, Colorado’s attorney general is suing the OxyContin creator for its “significant role in causing the opioid epidemic.”
The lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma L.P. and Purdue Pharma Inc. deluded doctors and patients in Colorado about the potential for addiction with prescription opioids and continued to push the drugs. And it comes amid news that the company’s former chairman and president, Richard Sackler, has patented a new drug to help wean addicts from opioids.
“Purdue’s habit-forming medications coupled with their reckless marketing have robbed children of their parents, families of their sons and daughters, and destroyed the lives of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers,” Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said Thursday. “While no amount of money can bring back loved ones, it can compensate for the enormous costs brought about by Purdue’s intentional misconduct.”
The lawsuit states that Purdue Pharma “downplayed the risk of addiction associated with opioids,” “exaggerated the benefits” and “advised health care professionals that they were violating their Hippocratic Oath and failing their patients unless they treated pain symptoms with opioids,” according to the Colorado attorney general’s office.
Purdue Pharma “vigorously” denied the accusations Friday in a statement to The Washington Post, saying that although it shares “the state’s concern about the opioid crisis,” it did not mislead health care providers about prescription opioids.
“The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve,” a spokesman for Purdue Pharma said in the statement. “We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”
In federal court in 2007, three top current and former employees for Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges, admitting they had falsely led doctors and their patients to believe that OxyContin was less likely to be abused than other drugs.