Kentucky attorney general files 7th opioid lawsuit

July 12, 2018

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 10, 2018, file photo, Attorney General Andy Beshear makes his announcement to run for governor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. Beshear has sued a St. Louis-based pharmaceutical manufacturer for misrepresenting the addictive nature of their opioid-based drugs. His lawsuit against Mallinckrodt is the seventh lawsuit he has filed against opioid manufacturers and distributors. (Bac Totrong/Daily News via AP, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — The company’s website claimed its product would “enable patients to stay in the workplace, enjoy interaction with family and friends and remain a member of society.”

But Kentucky’s Attorney General is more interested in what the company did not say: Its product was dangerously addictive.

Andy Beshear sued St. Louis-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Mallinckrodt on Thursday, arguing it misrepresented the addictive nature of its opioid-based prescription painkillers. He said the company used “front groups” to promote opioid use and combat efforts to restrict prescriptions. The company made $3 billion in profits last year.

“They knew what they were doing. They made the conscious decision to put their profits in front of the health of our people, to allow countless Kentuckians to fall into addiction while they made money month after month after month,” Beshear said.

A representative of Mallinckrodt did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Kentucky has been one of the hardest hit states by the opioid epidemic. More than 1,400 people died from drug overdoses in Kentucky in 2016, a 39 percent increase in just three years.

The lawsuit filed Thursday was the seventh one Beshear has initiated against pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. While other state and local governments have been joining forces to sue major drug companies, Kentucky has decided to go it alone. Beshear has fought efforts to consolidate the lawsuits with other states, saying he wants companies to come to Kentucky and face juries in rural communities.

In addition to Mallinckrodt, Beshear has sued Endo Pharmaceuticals, AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson Corp., Johnson and Johnson and Walgreens. Thursday, Beshear said he plans to file more lawsuits in the future.

Mallinckrodt was founded in 1867 and was one of the first producers of morphine and codeine. Last year, the company agreed to pay the federal government a $35 million fine to settle claims that it violated reporting laws. It did not admit any wrongdoing. Compared with the company’s $3 billion in revenue last year, Beshear said the fine “does not seem like that much.”

“If a punishment is supposed to fit a crime and it is supposed to correct behavior, we must do more,” he said.

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