Colo. su­ing OxyCon­tin cre­ator for role in cri­sis

For­mer com­pany exec patents drug to wean ad­dicts.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - FRONT PAGE - By Lind­sey Bever

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.

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