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New Mexico Sues Drug Makers Over ‘Catastrophic Effects’ Of Painkiller Crisis

REUTERS/George Frey

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Another state is targeting the pharmaceutical industry with a lawsuit alleging companies knowingly profited off spreading addiction to painkillers.

Officials in New Mexico launched the lawsuit Thursday, seeking damages from five of the largest drug manufactures in the country. State Attorney General Hector Balderas says the companies engaged in deceptive marketing about the efficacy of painkiller brands and the risk for abuse they carried, leading residents unknowingly into the trap of addiction, reports Reuters.

There are roughly 24.8 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 residents in New Mexico, according to the state Department of Health. The lawsuit also accuses wholesale distributors of intentionally diverting opioid orders for sale on the street. (RELATED: How One Painkiller Ignited The Addiction Epidemic)

“New Mexico continues to endure the most catastrophic effects of the opioid crisis, all while major out of state corporations make billions in profits at the expense of our families and communities,” Balderas said in a statement, according to Reuters. “This lawsuit is part of my office’s multi-pronged effort, Project OPEN, to combat the opioid crisis in New Mexico by holding drug manufacturers and distributors accountable, securing treatment resources, and increasing funding for law enforcement.”

The lawsuit targets Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Health Solutions and Allergan Plc, along with a number of wholesale distributors. The pharmaceutical companies deny wrongdoing, noting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of their medications.

“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share local officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” a representative for Purdue Pharma said in a statement, according to Reuters.

Lawsuits are mounting against the largest drug makers in the country for their alleged complicity in sparking the opioid crisis through dishonest advertising. The law firm Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is spearheading cases in New York, as well as two lawsuits in California, two in West Virginia, one in Chicago and one in Washington state.

An Illinois county hit hard by the opioid crisis launched a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry July 1. 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 National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released the first preliminary federal report, giving an accounting of drug overdose deaths in 2016. The CDC estimates that drug deaths rose by more than 22 percent in 2016, killing 64,070 Americans. Opioid deaths rose from 33,000 in 2015 to nearly 50,000 in 2016, driven primarily by fentanyl, a painkiller roughly 50 to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

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