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More Than A Quarter Of US States Are Now Suing The Makers Of OxyContin

(REUTERS/George Frey)

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter

Another state is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for allegedly misrepresenting the addictive potential of their popular painkiller, contributing to the national opioid epidemic.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson filed the lawsuit Monday in Hennepin County, which accuses the company of using their sales force as well as front groups to “spread its deceptive messages about opioids.” Swanson alleges Purdue violated the state’s fraud laws by making false statements about the effectiveness of OxyContin, reports KSTP.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for the public cost of opioid addiction in Minnesota, which officials say will go towards addiction treatment services.

“Prescription painkillers can be helpful in relieving pain when properly used and prescribed, but this company misrepresented and minimized the addictive nature of its drugs in order to sell more of them,” Swanson said in a statement, according to KSTP.

Purdue Pharma representatives deny any claims of wrongdoing and say the company is committed to working with the government to solve the opioid epidemic. Purdue takes particular issue with accusations they pushed false information about their drug on medical providers, noting statements about OxyContin are approved by Food and Drug Administration regulators. (RELATED: Gallery Owner Plans More Heroin Spoon Protests To Highlight Big Pharma’s Role In The Opioid Epidemic)

Representatives claim it is, “inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”

“We share the Attorney General’s concern about the opioid crisis,” said a spokesman for Purdue Pharma, according to KSTP. “We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, Minnesota has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. While our opioid medicines account for less than 2 (percent) of total prescriptions, we will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions to address this public health crisis.”

Minnesota is the 26th state to file a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over their alleged contribution to the national opioid epidemic. Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring moved to sue the company June 27. There are also more than 400 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma from cities and counties across the country.

Purdue Pharma, which ended its marketing practice of promoting painkillers to health care professionals in February, pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.

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.

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