Camden County, New Jersey is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, alleging the drug maker fueled the nation’s opioid epidemic – from which the county claims it was especially hurt – by using deceptive marketing practices that were later adopted by other opioid manufacturers.
The lawsuit claims that Purdue ignited the opioid crisis in the 1990s when it launched a marketing campaign to persuade doctors to prescribe its opioids not just to patients suffering with cancer pain, but to anyone suffering from minor aches and pains.
The lawsuit also names opioid makers and distributors Teva Pharmaceutical industries Ltd., and McKesson Corp., and pharmacies CVS Health Corp and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., for following Purdue’s practices to increase their own profits.
“Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin transformed the practice of medicine,” the lawsuit claims. “Other drug companies began peddling their own narcotic painkillers for routine injuries all based on the twin falsities that these powerful narcotics were not addictive and were safe and effective treatments for routine pain.”
Instead, opioids are highly addictive and put users at risk for serious adverse events including overdose and death. In 2016 and 2017, the Camden County Police Department responded to 941 opioid overdoses, 131 of which were fatal. Nationally, the number of opioid prescriptions jumped from 76 million in 1991 to 259 million in 2012.
More than 250 cases accusing opioid makers, distributors and pharmacy chains of contributing to the growing opioid epidemic have been consolidated into a multidistrict litigation in the Northern District Court of Ohio.