More than 20,000 Americans a year have been killed, jails have become filled, treatment centers are frequently visited, and the reemergence of heroin use; all which can be traced to prescription drug abuse. And nowhere is the pill problem more prevalent than in Kentucky’s Appalachians, where officials trace its roots to the aggressive marketing of one potent drug: OxyContin.
A Civil lawsuit has been in the works for seven years and time has ticked, but finally there is light at the end of the tunnel. The end result being making drugmaker Purdue Pharma pay. As early as next year, it could bring the first-ever jury trial pitting Purdue against an addiction-plagued state over the painkiller, which experts say may lead more communities to file suit; Chicago and two California counties already have.
“This is about holding them accountable,” says Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. “They played a pre-eminent role in the state’s drug problem. This started to explode in the mid-1990s, when Purdue Pharms was marketing OxyContin. The resulting opiate epidemic … is a direct result.”
An aggressive and deceptive marketing campaign misled doctors, consumers and the government about OxyContin’s addiction risk, ultimately addling taxpayers with millions of dollars in social, health care and other costs, is the epicenter of the suit.
More than a billion dollars is at stake and cite the potential for a “ruinous” verdict, say the company’s lawyers. Finding drug companies liable for harm caused by their products is challenging, University of Louisville law professor Timothy Hall says Kentucky’s lawsuit frames the issue in a new way, taking a page from the fight against Big Tobacco.
A 2004 report by the then U.S. General Accounting Office says Perdue encouraged primary-care doctors to prescribe the drug for a wide range of injuries and conditions, not just severe pain with serious illnesses like cancer. The Drug Enforcement Administration complained that the company promoted this sort of prescribing to doctors who weren’t well-trained in pain management, while also giving out OxyContin :starter coupons” for patients and promotional items such as fishing hats and plush seal toys, which are now sold online as collectors’ items.
OxyContin and Oxycodone prescriptions for non-cancer pain shot up tenfold between 1997 and 2002.
Silbert, the Purdue lawyer, agrees that prescription drug abuse is a serious problem and says that’s why the company reformulated the drug to make it harder to snort or inject. This just led addicts to turn to heroin.
Conway says he’s preparing for trial but is open to a fair settlement and would like any money to go towards drug education and treatment.
If you have been charged with any prescription drug crimes, or believe you may be charged in the future, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Kenneth Padowitz, P.A. provides it’s clients with a strategic criminal defense. We represent clients with similar cases throughout the region and South Florida, including: Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Boca Raton, Weston, Palm Beach, and Parkland. Give us a call for a free consultation, so we can discuss this important matter.