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August 23, 2019

Colorado Expands Lawsuit Against Maker of Oxycontin


Over the last few years, several American states have filed lawsuits against major pharmaceutical companies for the unlawful and immoral methods of selling opioid pain medications. Colorado has long since been one of the states taking action against Big Pharma, with its targets set specifically on Purdue, the company who created Oxycontin. 

In a recent turn of events, the state of Colorado has amended and added to their ongoing lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals, adding more allegations and defendants. As of now, the lawsuit remains private under a confidentiality agreement, but Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser is working to make it available to the public. 

The Opioid Epidemic in Colorado

As with just about every other American state, the opioid epidemic has been a silent killer, taking hundreds of thousands of lives over the last decade. For a large majority of that time, it went undiscussed. People often blamed those that were addicted, for moral weakness or a product of their environment. 

Once “white collar” Americans, soccer moms, and the elderly started coming forward about their unwilling and accidental decline into opioid addiction, people started to take notice. Inpatient treatment also became an absolute necessity for many new people. 

Over the last ten years, over 5000 Coloradans have died at the hands of the opioid epidemic. Records have shown that deaths of pregnant women have increased due to opioid addiction over the last few years, yet the state is ill-equipped to house and rehabilitate pregnant women and mothers with addiction. 

The goal of Colorado’s lawsuit against Purdue is not just to make a statement, but to open more substance abuse and mental health facilities with the payout. 

The Lawsuit

Colorado’s Attorney General Weiser is heading up the charge against Purdue and has been very vocal about why they are expanding the suit to include previous company executives, and even members of the family who owns the Perdue company. 

Where the lawsuit previously filed against Purdue for fraud and deceptive marketing, Weiser is adding “fraudulent and wreckless conduct” to the list. In addition, he is adding 

8 individual members of the family that owns Purdue, the Sacklers, and former executives of the company:

  • Russel Gasdia
  • Mark Timney
  • Craig Landau
  • James Haddox

Weiser states, “In our lawsuit that we filed and amend today, we are making plain that this is not acceptable, that these companies must be held accountable and in Colorado, we will hold them accountable,” 

Moral Ineptitude

The big debate between Purdue and the United States is the question of moral business and sales practices. The Purdue company stands firm in their defense that they never violated any laws or ethical practices, they never downplayed the potential severity of the drugs, and that they never said the drugs were not habit-forming.

On the other hand, records show that the Purdue company, along with the Sackler family themselves, had lists of the medical professionals and prescribers who sold the most opioids, and who could be enticed to sell more. 

Millions of dollars if not more were funneled into bribery practices for medical professionals who would be willing to write prescriptions for the drug, along with travel packages, galas, and private events for those who continued to push high quantities of Oxycontin. 

The very first Oxycontin advertisements started getting circulated to doctors in 1996. The video states, 

“Some patients may be afraid to take opioids because they are perceived as too strong or addictive, but that is far from actual fact. Less than 1% of patients taking opioids actually become addicted.” 

After these advertisements came out, annual sales of Oxycontin skyrocketed from $45 million to $3.6 billion in a year. 

Other States

Just about every other U.S. has filed a lawsuit against Purdue at this point, with the count ringing in at 48 states. What started as local and district lawsuits has become a nationwide rebellion against the company. Purdue stands firm in their defense, stating that the charges are false and misleading. 

Many states are concerned that their charges will go unanswered, as Purdue and many other major pharmaceutical companies are well equipped with a team of top lawyers and bulletproof underwriting that protects them in situations like these, yet the state of Oklahoma tells a tale of triumph. 

Oklahoma was recently awarded $270 million from Purdue Pharma in response to their own lawsuit. The suit was filed with the same allegations, fraud and deceptive marketing. The state will be funneling that money into drug rehabilitation and awareness methods for its citizens. 

As of now, there are over 1600 different lawsuits pending against Purdue Pharmaceuticals, yet not a scrap of admission of wrongdoing or malpractice from their end.