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Emergency department visits alone rose 100 percent between 2005 and 2014
Ken Serrano

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Opioids are the chemical cousins to heroin.(Photo: File photo)Buy Photo

New Jersey has filed a five-count lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, alleging a “direct link” between the opioid epidemic and the drugmaker’s effort to boost profits by “deceptively” marketing the addictive prescription drugs. 

“When we point the finger of blame for the deadly epidemic that has killed thousands in New Jersey, Purdue is in the bulls eye of the target,” state Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a prepared statement. “Today, my office took the first step toward holding them legally and financially responsible for their deception.”

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The State’s 100-page complaint, filed in Superior Court, Newark, charges that Purdue deceived the public and the medical community into believing that pain was undertreated and that opioids should be the first choice for patients suffering from chronic pain.

In a prepared statement, Purdue Pharma responded, “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”

It added that the company has distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and has worked with law enforcement agencies to ensure access to naloxone.

The state alleges that representatives of the Stamford, Connecticut-based drugmaker who visited doctors were given quotas in New Jersey that ranged from 500-700 prescriptions per month. Scroll to the videos above and below for more news on the opioid epidemic.

“The sheer number of marketing visits made by Purdue sales representatives to New Jersey prescribers is staggering – and based on the number of prescriptions, the scheme clearly was a smashing success for the company,” Porrino said.

Don Riebel lost his 21-year-old son Colin to a heroin overdose in 2013. Colin, a high school football player, developed his addiction at 15 after he received painkiller prescriptions following each of three surgeries for sports injuries, his father said.

Colin Riebel, right, upon his graduation from Triton Regional High School in 2009, with his brother, Andrew. Colin died of a heroin overdose after getting addicted to painkillers following sports injuries. (Photo: Courtesy of Don Riebel)

“For me it’s bittersweet,” Riebel said about the lawsuit. “I can’t get Colin back and I feel his generation has been lost to the epidemic.”

He added that the younger generation is going to be so much better educated on the dangers of opioids because of measures being taken like the New Jersey litigation.

MORE: Brick plans to sue drug maker over opioids

The company’s current annual revenues are estimated at approximately $3 billion, mostly from the sale of OxyContin, according to Porrino.

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According to the complaint, the State’s largest Medicaid managed care organization has paid $109 million for opioids through the Medicaid program since 2008 New Jersey paid $142 million through its Workers’ Compensation Program and the state’s health plan.

Purdue paid more than $600 million to settle with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2007 in a case related to its marketing of OxyContin.  But Purdue continued its “deceptive and unconscionable marketing” from 2007 through the present, the law suit alleges

The lawsuit also charges that Purdue Pharma ignored research showing that long-term use of opioids was not safe or effective.

Ken Serrano: @KenSerranoAPP; 732-643-4029; [email protected]

This is a developing story. Check back at app.com for updates.

 

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