Oklahoma on Friday became the latest state to sue prescription opioid manufacturers, alleging that the companies made false and deceptive marketing statements about their painkillers that fueled the state’s epidemic of opioid addiction.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed a lawsuit in state court against companies including Purdue Pharma LP, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries and its subsidiary Cephalon, and Allergan.
The lawsuit makes Oklahoma the fourth state to sue opioid manufacturers over their marketing practices.
The lawsuit notes that Oklahoma is one of the hardest hit states amid the country's prescription opioid and heroin epidemic. Drug overdose deaths increased eightfold from 1999 to 2012, surpassing car crash deaths in 2009, the lawsuit said. Oklahoma ranks number one in milligrams of prescription opioids distributed per adult resident.
The defendants “make billions of dollars in profits through their deceptive and misleading opioid marketing campaign,” Hunter said in the lawsuit. The companies “executed massive and unprecedented marketing campaigns through which they misrepresented the risks of addiction from their opioids and touted unsubstantiated benefits,” the lawsuit stated.
The impact on Oklahoma “is catastrophic,” the lawsuit says, and the state is seeking damages and penalties to compensate it for costs related to addiction.
In a statement, Allergan said it supports “the safe, responsible use of prescription medications. This includes opioid medications, which when sold, prescribed and used responsibly, play an appropriate role in pain relief for millions of Americans.”
Purdue, which manufactures OxyContin, also said in a statement, “While we vigorously deny the allegations in the complaint, we share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis, and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”
Johnson & Johnson, whose subsidiary Janssen was also named in the lawsuit, said in a statement: “We recognize opioid abuse is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. At the same time, we firmly believe Janssen has acted responsibly and in the best interests of patients and physicians.”
Mississippi and Ohio both recently filed a lawsuit over companies's opioid practices, and The Associated Press reported that Teva recently agreed to pay $1.6 million for substance abuse treatment to settle a lawsuit brought by two California counties.