Missouri Becomes Third U.S. State to Sue Opioid Manufacturers
BY Brendan Conley
Josh Hawley the Attorney General of Missouri, filed a lawsuit against major drug manufacturers, claiming they misrepresented the risks of opioid painkillers. Two other states have filed similar lawsuits.
Hawley filed the lawsuit on June 21 in state court in St. Louis, against Johnson & Johnson, Purdue Pharma and divisions of Endo International. Hawley claimed that the firms knew their products were dangerous and highly addictive, but engaged in a “campaign of fraud” to convince consumers and doctors in Missouri otherwise.
“Our state faces an urgent public-health crisis,” said Hawley in a press release. “Today, we begin to fight to put an end to this crisis.”
Hawley said the lawsuit seeks more than 200 million dollars in civil penalties and damages for the companies’ alleged violation of Missouri’s Medicaid statutes and consumer protection laws. According to Hawley, the companies used deceptive trade practices and fraudulent advertising, including “fake research” and “bogus front organizations,” to hide the true risks of the drugs they sold.
The attorneys general of Ohio and Mississippi previously filed lawsuits against Endo, Purdue and Johnson & Johnson, as well as Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Allergan. Similar lawsuits have been filed by local governments, including nine New York counties, three Tennessee district attorneys, the cities of Chicago and Dayton, Ohio, and two California counties.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine filed that state’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers on May 31, claiming that the drug manufacturers led doctors to believe the painkillers were not addictive, or even that prescribing more opioids was an acceptable treatment for addiction.
“They knew they were wrong, but they did it anyway,” said DeWine in a press release.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 there were more than 33,000 deaths in the United States from opioid use, including heroin and prescription painkillers.
Purdue, which makes OxyContin, denied the allegations. Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a division of Johnson & Johnson, said that its medications carried warnings about their known risks, and were approved by the Food & Drug Administration. Endo did not comment on the lawsuit but said that patient safety was a top priority of the firm. Earlier this month, the FDA asked Endo to withdraw Opana ER, its opioid painkiller, from the market.
Hawley’s office said that citizens of Missouri had been harmed by the actions of drug manufacturers. Eddie Bunnell, a former opioid addict, said he was given a prescription for opioids “that I never should have been given.” Bunnell said he was talking publicly about his struggle to demonstrate to other people struggling with addiction issues that “they’re not alone.”
Jammie Fabick said she lost her daughter three years ago to opioids. Fabick said that “we have to put a stop to this epidemic” for the sake of her daughter “and all the other lives lost.”
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