Kentucky Sues OxyContin Makers for $1 Billion

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, is being accused of “misleading doctors by withholding information about the potential dangers of the drug and its relative ease to abuse.”

Cannabis has long been officially unrecognized for the treatment of chronic pain, which is pretty convenient for drug companies because you can’t patent a plant. Without cannabis, pharmaceutical companies have had a field day making billions of dollars off of patients’ suffering. They’ve operated with impunity promoting dangerous opiates while turning a blind eye when communities around the country have been ravished by addiction. Purdue claimed that OxyContin had a “less euphoric effect and less abuse potential” than other opiates.

Purdue paid a settlement of $160 million in 2007 for damages suffered by the Medicaid program from misleading promotion of OxyContin. Kentucky, one of the hardest hit in the addiction epidemic, was offered a mere $500,000 but it refused to accept it. Instead, Kentucky turned around and began a long and difficult lawsuit for a billion dollars for damages suffered as a result of the drug’s widespread use.

“This is war,” said one of the lawyers involved in the case. As a first-hand witness of the devastation that prescription opiates have caused on my friend’s and family’s lives, I whole-heartedly agree: this is the real war on drugs; a war that needs to be fought tooth and nail. Prescription painkillers are dangerous gateway drugs, not marijuana.

“We have lost an entire generation. Half the pharmacies in Pike County have bulletproof glass. We had FedEx trucks being knocked off. It was the Wild West,” said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway.

Purdue has never gone to trial over a case of OxyContin abuse. Many have tried; it has won more than 400 dismissals of personal-injury suits, and has defeated more than 10 class-action lawsuits against them. While Purdue has had to settle a few product-liability cases, this suit would be their day of reckoning. Purdue’s own chief financial officer said a billion-dollar payout would be “crippling.”

This story will continue to develop, but the hope is Purdue will be held accountable for its poisonous drug and the effects it has had on communities around the country. The money will go to aiding the affected communities recover from this epidemic.

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