Release date: 5/15/2018
(RALEIGH) – Attorney General Josh Stein today filed a lawsuit against drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma over its marketing practices for prescription opioids. The lawsuit alleges that Purdue made deceptive and misleading statements to overcome prescribers’ and patients’ concerns and objections.
“As detailed in the complaint I filed today, Purdue Pharma repeatedly deceived prescribers and patients in its pursuit of profits – and far too many North Carolinians lost their loved ones as a result,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “Purdue crossed the line, and I intend to hold them accountable.”
The lawsuit alleges many examples of deceptive marketing messages that Purdue pushed:
- “Pseudo-addiction” is a concept Purdue hyped to downplay concerns about opioid addiction. With no valid scientific basis, the company aggressively marketed the idea that people often engage in desperate, drug-seeking behavior not because they are addicted, but because they are actually not receiving enough opioids. Some of Purdue’s own doctors eventually acknowledged that “pseudo-addiction” was “an excuse to give patients more medication,” and had “led us down a path that caused harm.”
- Discrediting Non-Opioid Pain Relievers (such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen) allowed Purdue to undermine competition. Purdue’s marketing messages claim that these non-opioids are actually riskier than opioids for chronic pain – again with no valid science to substantiate the claim.
- Pushing higher doses for its opioid products, Purdue repeatedly claimed that its products did not have maximum dosage limits. When some doctors raised concerns, Purdue claimed that there are no maximum dosage limits for Oxycontin, and that the only real limit is when the patient experiences side effects including respiratory depression, a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
- Targeted vulnerable populations as patients, including veterans and seniors.
As described in the complaint, through these and other false statements, Purdue transformed the attitudes, habits, and practices of prescribers and patients in North Carolina. Under North Carolina’s Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practices Act, Attorney General Stein intends to stop Purdue from taking these illegal and deceptive actions and hold the company accountable.
In addition to Attorney General Stein’s lawsuit in North Carolina, five other states, including Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and North Dakota have today filed their own lawsuits in state court against Purdue. These lawsuits complement the ongoing efforts of a bipartisan group of more than 40 attorneys general (of which these six states are members) which are investigating opioid manufacturers and distributers. As the litigation announced today begins, the Attorney General’s office will also continue discussions with Purdue and other companies as part of that ongoing investigation.
Laura Brewer (919) 716-6484