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Connecticut sues Stamford drug maker over opioids

December 20, 2018

The state is suing Stamford-based Purdue Pharma Inc., including current and former members of its management team, charging that their aggressive marketing campaign misled doctors and downplayed the risks of addiction to the company’s potent opioids.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, signals a disappointment in the speed and focus of talks with the drug giant. The new lawsuit joins hundreds, possibly thousands of other legal actions around the nation, filed by states and individuals, over the controversial use of the narcotics that have resulted in record levels of overdose deaths.

Attorney General George Jepsen charged Thursday that the drug giant “peddled a series of falsehoods” to steer patients to opioids netting huge profits while the opioid crisis swept the nation.

“For a number of months, Connecticut and our multistate partners have been engaged in intensive negotiations with opioid manufacturers and distributors in the hope of resolving potential legal claims in a way that would avoid protracted litigation and would bring opioid treatment resources to those who are desperately in need,” said Jepsen, who has a leadership role in a multistate group of attorneys general probing the issue. “I expect those negotiations to continue, and I remain hopeful they will bring a resolution that helps to address this ongoing crisis.”

Jepsen said he believes the company has been disingenuous.

“Purdue Pharma, however, has not demonstrated to me that it is serious about addressing the states’ very real allegations of misconduct and coming to a meaningful settlement,” he said. “It is my hope that, in filing this lawsuit at this time, Connecticut can assist in the collective effort to hold this company and responsible individuals accountable.”

Jesen said the state will claim that Purdue misled doctors on the risks of the drugs, while in the pursuit of profits, particularly through its OxyContin, Hysingla and Butrans opioids. Tactics including sales representatives making deceptive pitches to doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and clinics. Doctors who were high-prescribers were given, meals, gifts and cash, while high-volume sales people reaped bonuses.

Robert Josephson, a Purdue spokesman, said that the company wants to “continue to work collaboratively” with Jepsen, but challenges and denies the state’s accusations.

“We share the state’s concern about the opioid crisis,” Josephson said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

Josephson said that the state’s claim that Purdue acted improperly in speaking with physicians, refers to information that remains approved by the federal Food & Drug Administration. “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.”

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