SACRAMENTO (AP) – California’s attorney general is suing the pharmaceutical company behind the painkiller OxyContin.
The lawsuit filed Monday accuses Purdue Pharma of falsely promoting the drug as not addictive even as it emerged as among the most widely abused in the United States.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused Purdue and its former president, Richard Sackler, of stoking the crisis through its irresponsible practices.
A Los Angeles Times investigation took aim at the drugmaker saying it promised patients 12 hours of pain relief but it early clinical trials the drug wore off sooner.
“OxyContin is a chemical cousin of heroin, and when it doesn’t last, patients can experience excruciating symptoms of withdrawal, including an intense craving for the drug.”
The article spurred Massachusetts Democratic Senator Edward J. Markey to call for an federal investigation.
In a letter to the Federal Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission Markey said OxyContin “a leading culprit in the current opioid and heroin overdose epidemic.”
He wrote the Department of Justice, saying “OxyContin’s leading role in this epidemic is well-established, caused in large part by Purdue’s aggressive – and illegal – marketing efforts.”
He urged the DOJ to additional compensation, “If Purdue’s wrongdoing has continued and resulted in further damage to the United States.”
Monday, California was the latest state to join a growing number of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma as the country grapples with a rising number of fatal drug overdoses linked to opioids.
In 2017, there were 2,199 opioid-related fatal overdoses in California, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Nationwide, there were more than 47,000.
Maine’s attorney general said in a lawsuit that Purdue Pharma deceptively marketed opioid drugs in the state over a decade while the opioid crisis worsened.
Attorney General Aaron Frey also filed a suit Monday against Purdue and members of the family that owns it, joining California and the District of Columbia.
Frey said Purdue and the Sackler family misled Maine consumers and played a significant role in accelerating the opioid epidemic.
Maine set a state record for drug overdose deaths in 2017 with 417. The number declined to 354 last year.
Purdue has vowed to fight the lawsuits, calling them “misleading attacks.”
The company is based in Stamford, Connecticut.
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