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State sues maker of OxyContin

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 08. 2017 9:11PM

About Purdue
• Ownership: Purdue Pharma LP is a privately held company headquartered in Stamford, Conn.

• Products: Purdue introduced OxyContin in 1996. It also makes other prescription opioids, as well as medical antiseptics and over-the-counter laxatives.

CONCORD — Capping a two-year probe, the Attorney General’s Office sued prescription pain pill maker Purdue Pharma, charging it deceptively marketed OxyContin and other medications that led to patients getting hooked on heroin and fueling the state’s opioid epidemic.

In a 95-page civil lawsuit brought in Merrimack County Superior Court, the state asks the Connecticut-based manufacturer pay restitution, damages and fines of $10,000 a day for each violation of the Consumer Protection Act.

“Over the past two years, our office has conducted an extensive investigation into Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin and its other products in New Hampshire,” said Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice.

The deputy chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has called New Hampshire “ground zero” of the opioid epidemic and the Centers for Disease Control reports four of five heroin users started with prescription opioids.

“To defeat the epidemic, we must stop creating new users, and part of that is making sure these highly addictive and dangerous drugs are marketed truthfully and without deception and in such a way as not to minimize addiction risks or overstate benefits to patients,” Rice said.

A Purdue spokesman said the lawsuit is without merit but the drug maker is committed to battling the epidemic.

“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share New Hampshire officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” said Robert Josephson.

“OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone — all important components for combating the opioid crisis.”

The suit consists of six counts including deceptive and unfair practices, unfair competition and unjust enrichment.

New Hampshire is the latest of many states in the country suing Purdue Pharma to recover government costs of battling addiction.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., was governor when the probe began and praised the lawsuit.

“Despite companies being fined, these issues continue to persist, and it is time for real change to reverse the tide of this horrific epidemic that stems in large part from the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids,” Hassan said in a statement.

The suit contends Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed its opioids to treat chronic pain with no scientific evidence that it is safe or effective. It also says the drug maker, through its sales agents, routinely minimized the risk of addiction.

Purdue and the state are familiar combatants in New Hampshire courts: The drug maker has pushed back throughout the investigation.

The drug company tried to prevent the state from hiring a Washington, D.C., law firm to assist it in bringing the case against Purdue Pharma. That argument went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the AG.

View the AG's summary and the lawsuit filing below:

In 2007, Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges for deceptive conduct and reached a settlement with 26 states. New Hampshire was not involved in that settlement.

In 2010, the firm announced it had reformulated OxyContin to make it more resistant to being crushed for snorting or dissolved for injection. As a result, New Hampshire makes the focus of this suit the period starting in 2011.

The suit includes the following statistics:

• Purdue Pharma products accounted for 43 percent of prescription opioids under Medicaid in New Hampshire from 2011-2015. They totaled $3.5 million in 2015.

• Nearly half the Medicaid recipients taking OxyContin were taking the equivalent, maximum dose or higher.

• Purdue products comprised 55 percent of opioids for pain prescribed in the state employee health care plan.

• In 2012, 72 prescriptions for opioids were active for every 100 New Hampshire residents.

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