Officials in Alabama are suing the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, accusing the company of deceiving the public about the risks of opioids in pursuit of profits.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall filed the lawsuit in federal court Tuesday, which seeks to hold Purdue Pharma liable for the economic damage of the opioid epidemic in the state. Hundreds of residents in Alabama die from opioid-related overdoses each year, leading to a drop in the overall life expectancy in the state, reports NPR.
Marshall argues that the early marketing practices of Purdue Pharma surrounding their drug OxyContin opened the doors for the pharmaceutical industry to push overprescribing of painkillers for chronic pain patients.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding though every community of this state,” Marshall said Tuesday in a statement. “It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens.”
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result. The company overstated how long the effects of the medication lasted and severely downplayed the addiction risks of the drug. Three executives also pleaded guilty to criminal charges, but dodged prison time.
Purdue Pharma denies allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic and says it is committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse.
“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution,” a spokesman for Purdue Pharma previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorney general of New Jersey. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
Nationally, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50, killing 63,600 people in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The increase is driven primarily by opioids, which claimed 42,249 lives last year, a 28 percent increase over the roughly 33,000 lives lost to opioids in 2015.
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