The Florida lawsuit alleges, among other things, that opioid manufacturers used front organizations and key opinion leaders to promote false messages about opioids. These sources appeared to be neutral advocates for the use of opioids to treat chronic pain but were actually paid mouthpieces of the manufacturers, according to a statement from Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Bondi said distributors failed in their duties under Florida law to stop the suspiciously high orders of opioids they received. Instead, Bondi said the distributors placed profit over safety and continued filling the suspicious opioid orders. In the complaint filed in Pasco County Circuit Court, the AG’s office alleged the defendants’ actions violated the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, the Florida RICO Act, and violated common law public nuisance and negligence. The complaint seeks damages, injunctive relief, restitution, and civil penalties for defendants’ conduct.
“We are in the midst of a national opioid crisis claiming 175 lives a day nationally and 15 lives a day in Florida, and I will not tolerate anyone profiting from the pain and suffering of Floridians,” Bondi said. “The complaint I filed today seeks to hold some of the nation’s largest opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in this crisis and seeks payment for the pain and destruction their actions have caused Florida and its citizens.”
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday that his office filed a consumer protection lawsuit in Travis County District Court against Purdue Pharma for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) involving the company’s prescription opioids, including OxyContin.
“My office is holding Purdue Pharma accountable for fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing prescription painkillers including OxyContin when it knew their drugs were potentially dangerous and that its use had a high likelihood of leading to addiction,” Paxton said in a news release. “As Purdue got rich from sales of its opioids, Texans and others across the nation were swept up in a public health crisis that led to tens of thousands of deaths each year due to opioid overdoses.”
Texas alleged a series of misrepresentations fueled the crisis:
• Failing to disclose the risk of addiction of opioids; • Misrepresenting that there is no “ceiling dose” of their opioid drugs—falsely representing that doctors and patients could increase opioid dosages indefinitely without risk; • Making false, unsubstantiated representations about “pseudoaddiction,” and falsely representing to doctors that common signs of addiction in patients are actually signs that the patient needs a higher dose of opioid.
The attorneys general of five other states took similar legal action today against the Stamford, Connecticut-based pharmaceutical giant, Paxton said.
In Georgia, several jurisdictions have already filed similar lawsuits. Attorney General Chris Carr has joined with other states to encourage health care providers to limit opioid prescriptions.
Florida Justice Association Executive Director Paul Jess applauded the litigation efforts Tuesday.
“Florida’s fight for holding the drug distributors and manufacturers accountable for their share of the opioid crisis is stronger today as a result of Attorney General Bondi’s announcement,” Jess said. He also praised Bondi’s selection of Clif Curry of the Curry Law Group and Rich Newsome of Newsome Melton to join Florida’s team fighting opioid distributors and manufacturers.
Purdue did not have an immediate response to Tuesday’s lawsuits. However, the company has responded to previously filed litigation, saying:
“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.”