Lawsuit Rips ‘Deceitful’ Drug Makers Who ‘Raked In Billions’ Spreading Addiction

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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An Illinois county hit hard by the opioid crisis is suing pharmaceutical companies, who allegedly deceived the public to boost profits for their painkiller brands.

This is the second lawsuit leveled against major drug makers by officials in Illinois, adding to more than 25 civil cases that have already been filed this year against the top pharmaceutical companies and their distributors. The Jersey County lawsuit filed July 1 targets Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical unit, Janssen Pharmaceutical, and Teva Pharmaceuticals, reports U.S. News and World Report.

Officials allege drug makers paid experts to give misleading presentations to doctors, patients and medical groups on painkillers and their risks, which downplayed the potential for addiction and abuse.

“These drug companies have raked in billions of dollars by deceitful advertising and fraudulent conduct that has brought misery and heartbreak to our community,” Jersey County State’s Attorney Ben Goetten said in a statement, according to U.S. News and World Report.

Goetten is seeking $50,000 for every violation of the Illinois Fraud Act by drug makers. The lawsuit seeks an additional $10,000 for every violation involving someone 65 years or older.

Brendan Kelly, the state attorney for St. Clair County, Ill., filed a 159 page lawsuit April 20 against Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories, also accusing the company of consumer fraud and profiting off deception. Kelly charges Purdue Pharma intentionally misled the public about the safety profile of opiate-based painkillers, all in the quest for greater profits.

Purdue Pharma, which often comes under the harshest scrutiny, says they are committed to solving the opioid addiction crisis. A representative of the drug maker responded to the lawsuit from St. Clair County by noting their medication OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the prescription opioid market in the country.

A spokesman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals recently responded to the mounting body of lawsuits by saying that they “recognize opioid abuse is a serious public health issue,” but have always operated responsibly with their products.

A bipartisan group of attorneys general from Nevada, Texas and more than 23 other states announced June 15 they are investigating marketing and sales practices used by pharmaceutical companies to distribute their painkillers. Officials said they want to know “what role, if any,” drug makers played in causing the opioid epidemic, which claimed 33,000 lives in 2015.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said June 6 that drug deaths in the U.S. experienced the largest increase in recorded history in 2016, claiming more than 60,000 lives. He notes early data suggests deaths from opioids and other drugs will continue to increase in 2017.

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