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Ohio AG sues drug manufacturers for fueling painkiller addiction

[JURIST] Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine [official website] filed suit [complaint, PDF] Wednesday against five major drug manufacturers for misleading marketing practices that led to a painkiller epidemic. DeWine filed suit in the Ross County Court of Common Pleas [official website] against the manufacturers of drugs such as OxyContin, Percocet, Dilaudid and Percoda, alleging that the companies spent $168 million on sales representatives who downplayed the risks of the drugs while highlighting the benefits. DeWine stated [press release]:

These drug manufacturers led prescribers to believe that opioids were not addictive, that addiction was an easy thing to overcome, or that addiction could actually be treated by taking even more opioids. ... They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway—and they continue to do it. Despite all evidence to the contrary about the addictive nature of these pain medications, they are doing precious little to take responsibility for their actions and to tell the public the truth.
The suit seeks an injunction against the companies' sales practices and damages to reimburse state spending in fighting the painkiller epidemic. Jessica Castles Smith, spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson a subsidiary of Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., stated [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report] that the allegations are unfounded.

The US District Court of the Western District of Virginia [official website] in July 2007 sentenced [NYT report] three former executives of the Purdue Frederick Company [corporate website], manufacturer of painkiller OxyContin [FDA materials], to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service in drug treatment programs. The three executives, including former president Michael Friedman, former chief in-house counsel Howard Udell, and former medical director Paul Goldenheim, all pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in May 2007 to a misdemeanor offense of misbranding a drug. Prosecutors had alleged that the company and executives were aware in 1995 that doctors were concerned about the drug's high addiction risk, but its sales representatives continued to misrepresent OxyContin's effects to physicians. Purdue Frederick agreed to pay $634.5 million in fines for its role in misleading the public. OxyContin, which is a schedule II controlled substance [backgrounder] has become increasingly abused because its time-release mechanism can be easily disrupted for illicit use.

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