In a recent post, I considered the history of the prescription drug OxyContin that, in the minds of many, has singularly opened a Pandora’s Box of widespread addiction and abuse—affecting an ever growing number of individuals and even entire communities throughout America.
While it might seem far-fetched that anyone involved in the development, production or marketing of this drug was able to foresee—or even purposely cause—the truly epidemic levels of opioid abuse we are currently facing, it has become clear that many of those who were involved with this product (especially the marketing of it) acted irresponsibly and with little regard for anything but profit.
As evidence of this behavior, one needs only look to Suffolk County, NY and its recently filing against the drug manufacturer Purdue. The lawsuit claims that Purdue used deceptive marketing to downplay the risks of the drug while also improperly driving physicians to prescribe the medication in atypical situations—ultimately leading to an oversaturation of the market, which in turn led to misappropriation and abuse.
The Suffolk lawsuit also purports that Purdue cost the taxpayers of Suffolk County money, both in paying for the prescription of unnecessary drugs as well as for public services provided in the way of emergency room care and substance abuse programs.
Adding to a long list of legal complaints from other communities that includes Orange County of California, the city of Chicago and the state of Mississippi, this current litigation shines a very bright light on the alleged misleading marketing practices of the OxyContin sales team as well as the man who oversaw Purdue Pharma during this aggressive era of misconduct, Dr. Richard Sackler.
The son of Purdue Pharma founder Raymond Sackler, Richard Sackler was recently questioned under oath about his aggressive and unorthodox marketing practices as part of a Kentucky court order, marking the first time any member of the Purdue founding family has commented on their role in fostering America’s dependency on opioids. While the lawsuit settled for $24 million to be paid out to this afflicted Appalachian state, it is most likely not the last time there will be connections made to the family name that most recently appeared on the Forbes list of America’s Richest Families—as few will deny that it was the marketing of OxyContin that propelled them to a net worth of $14 billion in less than two decades.
So are we approaching an end to this sordid story? It is hard to say. Unfortunately, OxyContin is not only still being manufactured and prescribed, but recent court actions involving Purdue’s patents have opened the door for generic manufacturers to now make the drug even more available and at a lower cost. In an attempt to expand their current market share, the company has recently gained FDA approval of OxyContin for use with children as young as 11 years old, and there is evidence that babies with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)—often caused by exposure to opioids like OxyContin while in the womb—is becoming one of the fastest growing newborn conditions in the U.S. Suffice to say, it will be of little surprise if lawsuits across the country continue to name OxyContin and Purdue Pharma for some time to come.
Derek T. Braslow is a partner of Pogust Braslow & Millrood, LLC. He is one of the first attorneys to file suit on behalf of families who lost a child, spouse or parent to suicide as a result of psychotropic medication and one of the first to file a suit against investigators, sponsors and institutional review boards for conducting unethical human clinical trials. Derek was voted by his colleagues as a Rising Star and SuperLawyer in the area of Pharmaceutical and Mass Tort litigation.