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Very Real

Lawsuit Accuses Purdue Pharma Of Lying About Opioid Risks To Boost Profits

Massachusetts Attorney Maura Healey wants Purdue Pharma leadership to be held responsible.

By Sharon Lynn Pruitt

More than 115 Americans die of opioid overdoses every day, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. Now, a pharmaceutical company is being held personally responsible for its alleged contribution to the opioid epidemic sweeping the nation.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Purdue Pharma Inc., a privately held company, and one of its branches, Purdue Pharma L.P.. Also named on the suit are 16 current and former Purdue directors and executives.

Among the 16 are the chief executive, Craig Landau, and eight members across three generations of the multi-billionaire Sackler family who owns Purdue, The Guardian reported.

Healey’s suit accuses the company, which manufactures prescription opioids like OxyContin, Butrans and Hysingla, of “misleading prescribers and consumers about the addiction and health risks of their opioids” in order to get more people to take its drugs and, in turn, increase its profits.

Purdue has sold more than 70 million doses of opioids in Massachusetts and generated more than $500 million in revenue since 2008, according to the attorney general’s office. 

“The opioid epidemic is killing five people every day in Massachusetts,” Healey said in a statement. “Purdue Pharma and its executives built a multi-billion-dollar business based on deception and addiction. The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people in Massachusetts suffered and died. These defendants must be held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic that has ravaged our state and claimed so many lives.”

Healey’s suit is seeking unspecified restitution, damages, and penalties, as well as an appropriate injunctive relief, according to the attorney general's office

The company said in a statement to The Guardian that it vigorously denied Healey’s allegations and is looking forward to presenting “substantial defenses” to the lawsuit’s claims.

“We share the attorney general’s concern about the opioid crisis,” the statement said. “We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the commonwealth [of Massachusetts] has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions.” 

More than a dozen other states and Puerto Rico have filed lawsuits against the Connecticut-based company, Reuters reported, but this is the first suit to name the Sackler family, according to The Guardian.

The company had released a statement in February announcing that its sales representatives will no longer promote opioids to prescribers.

[Photo: Getty Images]