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State wins round in lawsuit vs. opioid drug makers

New Hampshire Union Leader

January 10. 2018 9:08PM
A pharmacist holds prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah. (REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo)

CONCORD — A federal judge agreed Tuesday to move back to a state court New Hampshire’s lawsuit charging prescription pain pill maker Purdue Pharma with deceptively marketing OxyContin and other medications that led patients to get hooked on heroin and synthetic opioids.

The state filed the lawsuit last August in state court seeking a ruling that would compel the Connecticut-based manufacturer to pay the state restitution, damages and fines of $10,000 a day for each violation of the state Consumer Protection Act.

In response, lawyers for Purdue Pharma removed the case to the federal court, maintaining the Class Action Fairness Act gave proper jurisdiction of this matter to the U.S. District Court.

But state prosecutors challenged that transfer and Tuesday’s ruling from Judge Paul Barbadaro is a win for the state as it sends the case back to Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

“When the state sues to protect its citizens from such ongoing injuries, it is not acting merely as a member of a class of injured persons seeking to obtain compensation on behalf of others,” Barbadoro wrote in his 11-page ruling.

“It is acting in a sovereign capacity to protect its citizens.”

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

Gordon J. MacDonald, the state’s attorney general, directed his deputy to head up prosecution because prior to taking his current position, MacDonald represented Purdue Pharma in defending against this lawsuit.

“Opioid addiction costs the lives of hundreds of the state’s citizens each year,” Barbadoro summed up. “It has flooded the state’s prisons, demanded a vast commitment of law enforcement resources, and strained the capacity of the state’s first responders. Deaths from overdoses continue to occur at an alarming rate.”

Courts Business Health

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