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Idaho attorney general sues several opioid makers

July 23, 2019

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden has filed another lawsuit against several pharmaceutical companies, contending they deliberately deceived the public about the dangers of opioid prescriptions in order to generate big profits.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Boise’s U.S. District Court, names Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson, Endo Pharmaceuticals and other drug manufacturers and distributors as defendants. The lawsuit asks a judge to force the companies to pay the state damages and return all the revenue and profits they made from sales of opioids to Idaho businesses and patients.

The companies have not yet filed a response to the lawsuit. They did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

There have been more than 351,000 reported opioid-related deaths in the United States over the last 20 years. Idaho’s opioid-related death rate nearly tripled between 1999 and 2017, Wasden said.

Wasden filed a similar lawsuit last month against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family, who control the privately held pharmaceutical company.

In the latest lawsuit, Wasden is suing under federal racketeering laws, contending the businesses engaged in an organized campaign to downplay the risks of opioid use and aggressively encourage broad use of the drugs, all in pursuit of massive profits.

“This marketing campaign, in turn, misled and deceived doctors into prescribing more of the Manufacturer Defendants’ opioids, in increasingly dangerous doses, and for longer periods of time, while persuading doctors and patients alike to forego safer alternatives,” he wrote in the lawsuit.

Wasden said the companies also buried unfavorable research, used phony front groups to expand the opioid market and looked the other way “as millions of doses of prescription opioids flooded into communities throughout the state of Idaho.”

In the lawsuit, Wasden also claimed the companies promoted a concept called “psuedoaddiction,” suggesting that patients who showed addicted behaviors were actually suffering from undertreated pain rather than an opioid addiction.

Between 2015 and 2016, Idaho ranked fifth in the nation for the misuse of pain relievers among people aged 12 and older, according to the lawsuit. The state has more than 100,000 residents who are considered chronic opioid users, taking the drugs for more than three months without a break. That’s a third of all the Idahoans who are prescribed opioids, according to the lawsuit, and nearly a sixth of the state’s population.

Wasden estimated that opioid deaths alone have cost Idaho more than $12 billion in economic losses in the past two decades.

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