Attorneys general from six states launched lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma Tuesday over their alleged role in igniting the national opioid crisis.
The various lawsuits, from Florida, Texas, Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and North Dakota, accused Purdue Pharma, along with a number of other drug manufacturers, of purposefully downplaying the risks for abuse of their medications and the overall addictiveness of opioid-based painkillers, reported Reuters.
Purdue is already facing lawsuits from 16 states also blaming the company for high levels of opioid addiction and the national uptick in overdose deaths. (RELATED: Big Pharma Bribes Linked To Doctors Prescribing Large Quantities Of Opioids)
“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, according to Reuters. “You always want to settle and prevent a prolonged litigation. But we’re sending a message that we’re fully prepared to go to war.”
The Florida lawsuit also names pharmaceutical manufacturers Endo Pharmaceuticals, Allergan, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Mallinckrodt. Bondi is also going after medical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health and McKesson Corporation.
Pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors have previously denied any claims of wrongdoing and said they are committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic.
Purdue Pharma, which ended its marketing practice of promoting painkillers to health care professionals in February, previously pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.
“We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” Purdue Pharma spokesman Robert Josephson told The Daily Caller News Foundation in an email. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
Purdue Pharma is owned by the Sackler family, listed at 19th on the annual Forbes list of wealthiest families in the country at a worth of $13 billion. The family’s fortune largely comes from OxyContin sales, which its company branded and introduced as an extended release painkiller in 1995.
Medical professionals say a shift in the 1990s to “institutionalize” pain management opened the doors for pharmaceutical companies to encourage doctors to massively increase painkiller prescriptions, and Purdue Pharma led that effort.
Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising.
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing more than 64,000 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Opioid overdoses made up a staggering 66 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2016, surpassing the annual number of lives lost to breast cancer.