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Massachusetts has filed a lawsuit against 16 top executives of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular drug OxyContin, claiming they misled doctors, patients and the public about the dangers posed by the opioid-based painkiller.  Attorney General Maura Healey said “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made—and the more people died. We found that Purdue engaged in a multibillion-dollar enterprise to mislead us about their drugs. Purdue pushed prescribers to give higher doses to keep patients on drugs for longer periods of time, without regard to the very real increased risk of addiction, overdose and death.”  Texas, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee have filed similar lawsuits in state courts against the drug maker, whose headquarters are in Stamford, Connecticut.

The Texas’ lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma, the privately held manufacterer of OxyContin, of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by aggressively selling its products “when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” state Attorney General Ken Paxton said.  “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses,” Paxton said.

State officials in Arizona, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia,  — sued various pain-killer manufacturers and distributors for their roles in helping the opioid epidemic grow.  In 2007, Purdue Pharma did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million to settle lawsuits with 26 states and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.  Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were part of that agreement while Florida and North Dakota were not.

Opioids were the cause of nearly 42,250 deaths in 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.   Research suggests that since heroin and opioid painkillers, (including prescription ones) act similarly in the brain.  Opioid painkillers are often referred to by some doctors as “heroin lite” and taking one (even “as directed”) can increase one’s susceptibility to becoming hooked on the other.  Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50, with opioids as the number-one driver.

Deaths from opioids (including fentynals) have been rising sharply for years with an estimated 100 drug overdoses a day across the country.  Experts say the epidemic could kill nearly half a million people across America over the next decade as the crisis of addiction and overdose accelerates.

 

 

 

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