- New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood announced a lawsuit Tuesday against Purdue Pharma, accusing the maker of opioids of "a decades-long and continuing pattern of persistent, deceptive and illegal conduct" surrounding the company's marketing tactics.
- The complaint, filed in the state supreme court of Suffolk County, alleges the pharma intentionally understated risks and overstated benefits as part of a "concerted effort to increase sales of its opioid products and directly affected prescribing, public opinion, and consumption of those products."
- The lawsuit requests Purdue "abate the public nuisance and pay all costs of abatement." The Stamford, Connecticut-based company denied the allegations.
An opioid lawsuit is nothing new for Purdue, but this comes from one of the most powerful and influential legal offices in the nation. And while other state suits named multiple opioid makers and pushers, New York's focuses solely on Purdue.
Legal action began in 2007 against Purdue, when federal prosecutors reached criminal and civil settlements with the company for $635 million and the guilty pleas to criminal conduct for three executives.
The New York lawsuit describes Purdue's attitude to its run-ins with the law as "mere speed bumps" as the company continued its aggressive, direct marketing tactics.
"Our investigation found a pattern of deception and reckless disregard for New Yorkers' health and wellbeing - as Purdue lined its own pockets by deliberately exploiting our communities and fueling an opioid epidemic that's destroyed families across the state," Underwood said in a statement.
Overall, opioid litigation could be entering a new, more actionable phase.
Since the federal prosecution exposed Purdue's practices, more than 1,000 cities, counties and Native American tribes filed their own accusations, as opioid abuse and addiction became a national public health emergency.
At least 26 other states and Puerto Rico have also filed lawsuits in addition to a 41-state coalition of attorneys general investigating the industry for more than a year now.
This year, the legal process has begun churning. More than 400 lawsuits were consolidated in an Ohio federal court earlier this year, with a first trial set for September 2019. A federal judge also dismissed Purdue's argument in January that New Hampshire could not sue them in state court, clarifying one legal question.
And recent suits like New York's appear narrowly focused on Purdue instead of opioid makers and distributors at large. For example, in June, Massachusetts filed a suit that personally named Sackler family members, which owns Purdue.
"The opioid epidemic was manufactured by unscrupulous distributors who developed a $400 billion industry pumping human misery into our communities," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. "This lawsuit sends a clear message [to] all [those] who mislead the public to increase their profit margins that we will hold you accountable for your actions."
Purdue "vigorously [denies] the state's allegations," the company said in a statement.
"The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve," the company said. "We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA."