Purdue Pharma has gotten a lot of not-so-great coverage over the last few years. As the opioid epidemic continues to plague much of America, Purdue is facing more than just bad press for manufacturing and selling OxyContin. In the last few months, five states and a handful of cities have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other similar pharmaceutical companies, claiming they engaged in deceptive marketing practices when it came to opioids like OxyContin.
States argue that Purdue spent millions on marketing the benefits and use of opioid medications, like OxyContin, and downplayed the risks of addiction associated with the drug. The results of these deceptive acts: they opened the “floodgates” to the opioid abuse that is hitting cities and states hard. The lawsuits claim that the pharmaceutical companies overstated the benefits of opioids for treating long-term, chronic pain. Reports have indicated that Purdue may have advertised OxyContin as a 12-hour pain reliever when they knew the drug would not last that long. One city, Everett, WA even claims that the company knowingly provided OxyContin to suspicious physicians and pharmacies, creating a system for the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market.
Many have drawn comparisons between the opioid lawsuits and the tobacco lawsuits of the 90’s - taking on a big industry because of their creation of an addictive substances. While similarities are there, experts warn to not lose sight of the big differences. In the tobacco cases, individuals were using the product as instructed, but with opioids, more often than not, those individuals are misusing the medication. In fact, individuals have sued pharmaceutical companies in the past over opioid overdoses. The courts struggled to place blame on the company when evidence shows the individual did not follow their prescription order and frequently sought medication on the black market.
It will be a while before we know how this all plays out, but in the meantime, the list of states and localities filing suit will continue to grow. As the opioid epidemic numbers remain high, figuring out who to hold responsible will remain a hot topic.