Five more state attorney generals have announced they have filed suit against the manufacturer of the highly addictive opioid OxyContin and its former chief executive.
West Virginia’s suit, announced Thursday by state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, alleges that the Purdue Pharma used unlawful marketing tactics that fueled a scourge of opioid addiction and related deaths.
Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin also individually filed suit against the company and former president Dr. Richard Sackler — a medical doctor, former president of Purdue and current board member of the company.
The new filings bring the total number of states to 45 that are currently suing Purdue. More than 2,000 local and tribal governments across the country are also doing the same, according to the Associated Press.
Morrisey says Purdue trained new marketing employees with the advertising motto, “We sell hope in a bottle.”
The complaint brought on behalf of West Virginia was filed in Boone County Circuit Court.
It says Purdue violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act by engaging in a “series of misleading safety, comparative and benefit claims about its opioid products and unfairly targeting vulnerable populations such as the elderly.”
“Enough is enough,” Morrisey said at a Thursday news conference announcing the West Virginia filing. “The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries but our states will not go down quietly.”
“As we all know, the opiate epidemic is not limited by wealth, gender, race or political affiliation. It’s a national problem — and one that requires broad cooperation across the country to conquer,” he added.
Officials from Purdue denied the allegations brought forth in the suits announced Thursday.
“These complaints are part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system,” the company said in a statement. “The states cannot link the conduct alleged to the harm described, and so they have invented stunningly overbroad legal theories, which if adopted by courts, will undermine the bedrock legal principle of causation.
Thursday’s lawsuit isn’t West Virginia’s first against Purdue Pharma.
Prior litigation, which focused on an earlier formula of OxyContin, was filed in 2001 and resulted in a $10 million settlement in 2004 under then-Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
Morrisey, who has been criticized for his past lobbying on the federal level on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, also recently announced a $37 million settlement with drug distributor McKesson.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat who defended his seat against Morrisey in the 2018 midterm election, criticized the McKesson settlement in a statement, calling it a “sweetheart deal” for the drug distributor.
This article was originally published by West Virginia Public Broadcasting.