State: S.C. attorney general sues opioid maker for deceptive marketing

COLUMBIA, S.C. — S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin and other opioid drugs.

Filed in Richland County on Tuesday, the suit alleges that the company unfairly and deceptively marketed opioids, helping to create and fuel South Carolina’s opioid epidemic.

In 2016, South Carolina was 9th in the nation in opioid prescribing rates, according to the CDC. Since 2011, more than 3,000 South Carolinians have died from prescription opioid overdoses, statistics show.

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The lawsuit says Purdue violated South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act, failed to comply with the terms of a 2007 consent judgment with the state for similar conduct, and created a public nuisance, according to a release by Wilson's office.

The lawsuit specifically alleges that, from 2007 onward, Purdue significantly downplayed how addictive its opioids are and also overstated the benefits of opioids compared to other forms of pain management in order to increase its market share and profits. According to the complaint, since the 2007 consent judgment, Purdue “rather than reforming its opioid marketing to comply with the law … continued to mislead and obfuscate.”

The complaint also alleges that Purdue misrepresented the ability of its newer, abuse-deterrent opioids to reduce abuse even though Purdue knew that the abuse-deterrent formulation could be defeated with relative ease, that the formulation did not prevent oral abuse, and Purdue falsely claimed its abuse-deterrent opioids were safer than other opioids. 

“Given my duty to the residents of South Carolina, my office is obligated to take action as South Carolinians continue to fall victim to Purdue’s deceptive marketing of its highly addictive opioid products without care for the lives and families it is jeopardizing,” Attorney General Wilson said. “South Carolina is not immune to the headlines we see daily about the toll of opioids on individual patients, families, and communities.  It has created a public health epidemic and imposed a significant burden on law enforcement and social services in our state.”

“This suit,” Wilson continued, “seeks to hold Purdue accountable for creating this crisis and seeks remedies to stop its misleading, deceptive, and dangerous marketing tactics. While there is a time and place for patients to receive opioids, Purdue prevented doctors and patients from receiving complete and accurate information about opioids in order to make informed choices about their treatment options.”

“Opioid addiction is a public health menace to South Carolina. We cannot let history record that we stood by while this epidemic rages,” Wilson said.

Read the full complaint here.


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