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Montana sues maker of OxyContin

The state of Montana is suing Purdue Pharma, the makers of the opioid drug OxyContin, saying the company has lied to conceal the danger of the drug and created thousands of addicts.

Attorney General Tim Fox announced the lawsuit Monday.

“One drug and one company stands above the rest as the most significant purveyor of addictive and all-too-often deadly opioid-based prescription drugs,” Fox said. “The state’s complaint alleges that this company has gone to great lengths to conceal the dangers of their product while misleading and exploiting physicians in a way that creates thousands of addicts dependent on their drug.”

Since 2000, more than 700 Montanans have died from opioid overdoses, and between 2011-2013 more than 7,000 went to the emergency room because of a prescription drug overdose.

The lawsuit is filed on behalf of all counties in the state. Several Montana counties have recently planned to sue opioid manufactures, and this lawsuit is separate from those actions.

In September the state of Washington announced it was suing Purdue, while the city of Seattle filed its own lawsuit against Purdue and other companies.

In 2007 Purdue admitted to federal charges of mis-branding OxyContin and paid a $634.5 million fine after an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department. It also paid a $19.5 million settlement to 26 states and the District of Columbia.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Robert Josephson, a Purdue spokesman, said the company denied the allegations in the lawsuit and is working to be part of the solution to the opioid crisis.

The complaint alleges Purdue misrepresented the likelihood that long-term use of OxyContin would lead to addiction and that the company claimed the drug would improve overall health and did not disclose the long-term side effects of opioid use.

The lawsuit also says Purdue falsely claimed long-term opioid use is safe and effective for pain treatment, told doctors that OxyContin works for 12 hours when it knew it did not for many patients, claimed a new generation of opioid deterred abuse and were safer when the company knew that was not true and falsely claimed opioids are safer than alternative, non-narcotic treatment.

Purdue also has advocated an unsubstantiated concept of "pseudo-addiction" that suggested a patient seeking more medication was not addicted, but their pain was being under-treated, and doctors should prescribe a higher dose of opioids, the complaint alleges.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief to stop what it calls deceptive marketing practices by Purdue and damages for the public health epidemic it says the company has created, as well as for what the state has paid for opioid treatment through the Montana Medicaid program and the Montana Healthcare plan, as well other costs of addressing opioid addiction in the state, along with maximum civil penalties. It also asks that Purdue turn over all profits from selling the drug.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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