Texas AG aims opioid lawsuit at Purdue Pharma

By David Yates | May 15, 2018

AUSTIN – During a May 15 press conference, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced that his office has filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over the marketing and selling of opioids, including OxyContin.

The suit was filed in Travis County District Court and alleges deceptive trade practices allegations.

“My office is holding Purdue Pharma accountable for fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing prescription painkillers including OxyContin when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” 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.”

Sales of Purdue Pharma opioids are worth billions of dollars every year nationwide.

The “startling rise” in the number of deaths attributable to opioids did not occur by “happenstance,” according to the suit.

“It resulted in large measure from a company’s decision to aggressively and deceptively market OxyContin and misrepresent the most serious side effect of opioids—addiction,” the suit states.

“That company is Purdue.”

Paxton’s lawsuit seeks “significant penalties” from the company for its alleged illegal conduct, and a permanent injunction to prevent future harm to Texans.

The alleged violations of DTPA by Purdue include:

- Misrepresenting or failing to disclose the risk of addiction of opioids;

- Misrepresenting that there is no “ceiling dose” of their opioid drugs—falsely representing that doctors and patients could increase opioid dosages indefinitely without risk;

- Making false, unsubstantiated representations about “pseudoaddiction,” and falsely representing to doctors that common signs of addiction in patients are actually signs that the patient needs a higher dose of opioid; and

- Falsely representing that Purdue’s abuse-deterrent formulation of OxyContin reduces the risks of OxyContin, including the risk of addiction.

Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

Starting last year, Paxton and a bipartisan group of 40 other state attorneys general have been conducting an investigation into whether companies that manufacture and distribute prescription opioids engaged in unlawful practices.

Purdue Pharma alone faces more than a dozen lawsuits by states including Texas.

Other investigations remain ongoing, according to the AG’s office.

The Texas lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma of using a marketing campaign to convince doctors and consumers that their opioid drugs are effective for treating long-term pain and have a low risk of addiction.  

Last October, President Trump officially declared the opioid epidemic a national emergency, noting that two million Americans suffer from addiction to prescription or illicit painkillers.

In Texas, non-fatal opioid costs to the state are around $20 billion annually, according to research from the American Enterprise Institute.

Of the top 25 cities for opioid abuse, four are in Texas – Texarkana, Amarillo, Odessa and Longview. Texas’ Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Task Force reported that “overdose by licit or illicit prescription drugs” is a leading cause of maternal deaths in the state.

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