PRESS RELEASE: Attorney General Greg Stumbo Files Suit Against Oxycontin Manufacturer

Attorney General Greg Stumbo Files Suit Against Oxycontin Manufacturer

Attorney General Greg Stumbo today announced the filing of a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, a highly abused narcotic.

The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma misrepresented the risks of using OxyContin and seeks to recover damages suffered state and county governments related to widespread addiction caused by the drug.

“As a result of the company’s attempts to con consumers about this powerful painkiller, unsuspecting people are being exposed to the risk of severe and disabling addiction,” Stumbo said. “Many went to their physicians for pain relief but found themselves saddled with drug addiction, facing life long consequences and adverse medical conditions.”

Stumbo’s lawsuit alleges fraud, conspiracy, negligence, and public nuisance on the part of Purdue Pharma. In addition to seeking restitution for state and county governments, the suit also demands that a medical monitoring program be established to diagnose and treat addiction problems in Kentucky.

In 1995, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) found that the Purdue could not claim slow-release OxyContin was better or safer than immediate-release oxycodone and said withdrawal is possible in patients who have their dosage abruptly reduced or discontinued. FDA further stated care should be taken to limit competitive promotion.

Despite the FDA’s findings, from December 1995 through June 2001, certain Purdue supervisors and employees, with the intent to defraud or mislead, marketed and promoted OxyContin to medical care providers as less addictive, less subject to abuse and diversion, and less likely to cause tolerance and withdrawal than other pain medications.

Additionally, the company sponsored training for all of its district sales managers which contained false data. Certain Purdue sales representatives falsely stated to some health care providers that OxyContin had less euphoric effect and less abuse potential than short-acting opioids.

“Purdue used a systematic approach to mislead pharmacists, physicians and patients about the addictive nature of Oxycontin,” continued Stumbo. “Families have been ripped apart and their hearts torn into pieces. Every day we see the dramatic increases of drug abuse and trafficking.”

Also in attendance was Pike County Judge/Executive Wayne T. Rutherford. MSNBC has referred to Pike County as “ground zero of prescription painkiller abuse." The county has reported 40 deaths related to OxyContin abuse and addictions.

Judge Rutherford stated, “This is an important event not just for the residents of Pike County, but for all Kentuckians whose lives have been torn apart from the effects of this powerful and highly addictive narcotic. This company has to be held responsible for their wrongdoing. This suit is not about money, but rather the people who have been affected and seen first-hand the devastation this drug has wrought on Kentucky. Pike County, as well as other Kentucky counties, has worked hard to combat the effects associated with this drug. But, even when we think there is nothing more we can do, we still have our legal system to provide a way to bring this issue to light and provide relief to the people of Pike and other counties whose lives have been destroyed by OxyContin.”

Pike County, one of the named plaintiffs in the complaint, will be acting as representative of a class of Kentucky counties that have been affected by the over-prescribing of OxyContin, alleged to be the result of fraudulent misrepresentation by Purdue about the risks associated with OxyContin, especially the highly addictive potential of the drug.

Purdue pled guilty to federal felony charges of misbranding a drug with the intent to defraud or mislead on May 10, 2007. Three corporate executives of Purdue also pled guilty to misleading the public about the risks of addiction associated with OxyContin.

The Law Offices of Gary C. Johnson, PSC of Pikeville, will represent Pike County in the suit. According to Mr. Johnson, “Our judicial system is the only place for the counties to go to get their grievance heard and to seek redress for the harms done to them,” Johnson said.