They filed a 65-page lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division against Purdue Pharma, one of the largest opioid manufacturers in the country. The complaint lays out in detail allegations that the company intentionally marketed drugs that created the opioid epidemic.
Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, the Montgomery-based plaintiffs firm with an office in Atlanta, announced the filing of the lawsuit on its news website Tuesday. Beasley Allen’s Rhon Jones, head of the firm’s toxic torts section, is acting as a deputy attorney general for the litigation. Firm principal and founder Jere Beasley is also working on the case, along with Richard Stratton, William Sutton and J. Ryan Kral. They have joined forces with Joshua Hayes, also acting as a deputy attorney general, and Robert Prince of Prince, Glover & Hayes in Tuscaloosa.
“Alabama’s opioid crisis has been, and is still being, fueled by pharmaceutical manufacturer Purdue, which has deceptively and illegally marketed opioids in order to generate billions of dollars in sales,” Jones said in a Beasley Allen news release Tuesday. “Purdue primarily manufactures and sells opioids, and is misrepresenting the risks of these highly addictive painkillers, plainly putting profits over people. The rampant use and abuse of opioids is devastating to both the citizens of and the State of Alabama.”
Purdue Pharma responded to the lawsuit Wednesday with the following statement emailed to the Daily Report: “We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2% of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed the first FDA-approved opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
The complaint seeks punitive damages, attorney fees, civil penalties and full restitution and disgorgement of Purdue’s “unjust enrichment and ill-gotten gain, plus interest.”
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a news advisory Tuesday that he expects the lawsuit to be transferred to federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, as part of the national multidistrict litigation against Purdue.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding though every community of this state,” Marshall said in the news release. “Alabama ranks first in the nation for the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita. As a result, it is estimated that almost 30,000 of our residents over age 17 are dependent upon heroin and prescription painkillers. Alabama’s drug overdose death rate skyrocketed by 82 percent from 2006 to 2014 and it is believed that many of those deaths were from opioid painkillers and heroin.”
Marshall’s statement reflects those made by his counterparts all over the country regarding the opioid crisis. He added, “It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens.”
The lawsuit seeks economic damages resulting from the opioid epidemic, including costs for providing medical care, therapeutic care and treatments for patients suffering from opioid-related addiction or disease, including overdoses and deaths; costs for providing counseling and rehabilitation services; costs for treating infants born with opioid-related medical conditions; public safety and law enforcement expenses; and care for children whose parents suffer from opioid-related disability or incapacitation.
Purdue manufactures, markets and sells prescription opioid pain medications, including the brand name drugs OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid/Dilaudid-HP, Butrans, Hysingla ER, and Targiniq ER, as well as generic opioids. OxyContin constitutes roughly 30 percent of the entire market for painkillers, according to Beasley Allen. Purdue’s drugs compose a majority of the extended release market, for use with chronic noncancer pain patients, which is the most dangerous method of use.