Virginia sues Purdue Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis

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Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring today filed a lawsuit accusing Purdue Pharma of profiting from an opioid crisis that it helped create and prolong through a decades-long campaign of lies and misrepresentations in violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

Since 2007, 8,000 Virginians have died from an opioid overdose, including 5,000 from a prescription opioid overdose, the suit claims. During the same period, Purdue allegedly made false claims about the purported safety, efficacy, and benefits of its opioids, including OxyContin, pumped tens of millions of pills and patches into Virginia, and reported billions in profits.

Herring’s lawsuit was filed this morning in the Circuit Court of Tazewell County, where the rate of fatal prescription drug overdoses is more than four times the state average. The suit, which also alleges Purdue created an unlawful public nuisance, asks for injunctive relief to put an end to Purdue’s alleged lies and deception about its opioids and for monetary compensation and damages as determined to be appropriate by the court.

“For decades, Purdue Pharma has amassed a fortune and built an empire on suffering and lies about the dangers of its drugs and its central role in creating and profiting from the deadliest drug epidemic in American history,” said Herring. “The opioid crisis that is touching so many Virginia families is the direct and foreseeable result of Purdue’s complex, large-scale, and years-long campaign of deception. For too long Purdue has ignored its moral and legal responsibilities, while working overtime to boost the sale of its opioids by increasing the number of doctors who prescribe, increasing how much they prescribe, increasing the number of people asking for and taking opioids, and increasing the amount they take. I have filed suit to stop the lies, to stop the perverse incentives that have pumped millions of pills into Virginia, and to stop the heartbreak and loss of life.”

The suit alleges that Virginia’s opioid crisis “is the direct and foreseeable result of a decades-long, complex, large-scale campaign of misrepresentations and deception.” At the heart of Purdue’s unlawful scheme were lies that its opioids were safe, carried a low risk of addiction, and were more effective than other pain relievers, according to the suit, which charges that Purdue knew that all of these claims were false, yet it engaged in an elaborate scheme to push the lies through aggressive sales tactics, marketing, and seemingly independent patient advocacy organizations.

 

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Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.