On Tuesday State Attorney General Christopher Porrino filed a lawsuit in Essex County Superior Court against Purdue Pharma. Purdue is the manufacturer of the opioid OxyContin. The suit seeks to connect the marketing aimed at those with chronic pain to the ongoing national opioid addiction crisis which has hit New Jersey incredibly hard. A National Survey on Drug Use and Health states that 75 percent of all opioid misuse begins with people using medication that wasn’t prescribed for them. They receive it often from family and friends who had at some point a need for it.
OxyContin hit the market 21 years ago and since that time has brought in sales of more than $35 billion. Forbes has estimated that its annual revenue is approximately $3 billion. The suit alleges that the marketing for OxyContin misrepresented the probability of the patient becoming addicted to the drug. The suit alleges Purdue marketing that pain was being under-treated in America and that opioids should be the first-line solution in its management.
“In a campaign of almost inconceivable callousness and irresponsibility, we allege that Purdue has spent hundreds of millions of marketing dollars to downplay the addiction risk associated with taking opioids for chronic pain, all the while exaggerating the benefits of using these dangerous drugs,” Porrino said. “We allege that this fraudulent conduct has not only given false hope to many pain patients, it has led to addiction, overdose, and death. It also has cost the State hundreds of millions on opioid prescriptions and the broader health and social effects of over-prescribing. Many of these prescriptions never should have been written.”
According to the filing Purdue sales representatives in New Jersey visited 7-8 doctors every day to hopes of promoting the drug. This is in addition to the sky high prescription quotas of around 7,000 per year but reaching as much as 8,400.
The suit also alleges that Purdue marketed an “abuse deterrent” version of the pill, which was not necessary as the pill was most often abused by taking it orally as its intended purpose. Abuse deterrent pills are necessary when the primary abuse form is through injection or inhaling.
For its part Purdue Pharma has released this statement. “We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge.
It will be interesting to see how this case plays out going forward. What sort of precedent will this set going forward as New Jersey attempts to control the opioid crisis that is tearing so many families apart?
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