The state of Connecticut is suing Stamford-based pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, claiming the company ran a misleading campaign that downplayed the risk of addiction to opioids they manufactured to generate sales, despite the opioid crisis, according to a press release from the Connecticut attorney general’s office.
Attorney General George Jepsen announced the lawsuit Thursday. The suit claims that Purdue “peddled a series of falsehoods” that pushed patients toward opioid use and reaping large profits while opioid addiction caused pervasive problems in Connecticut and across the country.
According to the attorney general, 1,038 people died in Connecticut of accidental drug overdoses in 2017, the majority from opioid-related overdoses. The Connecticut Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has projected that 1030 more people will die of overdoses in 2018.
“We will allege in court that Purdue knowingly put its own exorbitant profits first when it purposefully and systematically misled doctors by not just downplaying the terrible risks of addiction, but by forcefully asserting that opioid products were safe, that the risk of addiction was low, and that patients experiencing symptoms of addiction should actually be prescribed higher and greater doses of Purdue's opioid drugs. We allege that this behavior was endorsed and promoted by the highest leadership of the company and that it was in violation of Connecticut law,” Jepsen said in a press release.
The state alleges that Purdue gave misleading information to patients and doctors to convince more people to take OxyCotin and two other opioids, Hysingla and Butrans. The lawsuit claims that Purdue suggested that opioids were safe to treat minor pain, and encouraged doctors and patients to take higher doses and rewarded high-prescribing doctors with meals, gifts and money, and awarded prizes and bonuses to sales representatives based on opioid prescriptions.
OxyContin has long been the world's top-selling opioid painkiller, bringing in billions in sales for Purdue.
The company has released the following statement on the allegations:
“We share the state’s concern about the opioid crisis. While Purdue Pharma’s opioid medicines account for less than 2% of total prescriptions, we will continue to work collaboratively with the state toward bringing meaningful solutions to address this public health challenge.
We vigorously deny the state’s allegations. The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve. We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA. We look forward to the opportunity to present our substantial defenses.”