AP NEWS

Illinois sues OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma

April 8, 2019

STAMFORD — Illinois sued Purdue Pharma Monday for allegedly fueling the state’s opioid crisis with deceptive marketing of pain drugs such as OxyContin, the latest among some three dozen states that have filed such lawsuits against the company.

The state accuses Purdue of misrepresenting its drugs’ risks and targeting doctors with patients addicted to opioids, through hundreds of thousands of sales representative visits between 2008 and 2017. Purdue also allegedly funded third-party publications to help promote its pain medicines. Those tactics tripled prescriptions of Purdue opioids in Illinois during that span and contributed to more than 2,000 fatal opioid overdoses in the state in 2017, according to Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul.

“Opioid addiction has destroyed lives and families throughout Illinois. Not only was Purdue aware of the dangers associated with its opioid products, but it downplayed those effects and used the opioid epidemic to increase its profits,” Raoul said in a statement. “In addition to filing this lawsuit, I will continue to collaborate with attorneys general from across the country to investigate and take action against all of those responsible for our nation’s unprecedented opioid crisis.”

In a statement, Purdue denied the lawsuit’s “misleading and damaging” allegations.

“The Illinois attorney general’s complaint contains factual errors and gross distortions and misrepresentations based on highly selective excerpting of language from tens of millions of documents,” the statement added. “The complaint is merely designed to publicly vilify Purdue.”

More than 1,000 municipal, county and state lawsuits have been filed against Purdue in the past few years. Most of the local governments’ complaints have been consolidated in a “multidistrict litigation” process in a federal court in Cleveland.

Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York comprise a few of the states that have sued the company. Those three have also named as defendants eight members of the Sackler family who own the company and who, until recently, served on the company’s board.

“The named defendants are responsible, and they’ll be held to account,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a recent interview. “This is as serious as it can be, and the scale of the damages and liability is enormous.”

In its largest settlement of the past 10 years, Purdue agreed last month to a $270 million settlement of Oklahoma’s lawsuit. About $200 million — including $75 million donated by the Sacklers — would help establish the National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University’s campus in Tulsa.

As the lawsuits mount against Purdue and the Sacklers, a growing number of museums are distancing themselves from the family, which is also known for its prolific philanthropy.

In the past month New York’s Guggenheim museum and Britain’s Tate galleries and National Portrait Gallery have said that they would turn down new donations from the Sacklers.

Connecticut-based beneficiaries of the Sacklers include the University of Connecticut, Yale University, Greenwich Hospital and the Palace Theatre in Stamford. So far, those institutions have not cut ties with the family.

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott