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CONCORD, New Hampshire – The state’s attorney general’s office sued Purdue Pharma on Tuesday, August 29, alleging that the drug manufacturer has continued its deceptive marketing of OxyContin in a state that has been called the ground zero of the opioid epidemic by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration.
In a civil complaint, the state alleges that the Stamford, Connecticut-based company downplayed the drug’s risk of addiction, overstated its effectiveness, claimed it is nearly impossible to abuse, and failed to report suspicious prescribers. It is the latest in a string of lawsuits by state, county and local governments accusing prescription opioid manufacturers of fraud and deceptive marketing.
The New Hampshire case comes less than two months after Missouri’s attorney general sued Purdue and two other pharmaceutical companies. Ohio’s attorney general filed a similar lawsuit against five companies in May, and three district attorneys filed a lawsuit in June against three companies in Tennessee.
The attorney general’s office in New Hampshire has been investigating half a dozen drug companies and their marketing practices for two years. During that time, the opioid problem has continued to grow. Nearly 500 people died of overdoses in 2016—a nearly tenfold increase since 2000.
A spokesman for Purdue Pharma said the company vigorously denies the allegations of fraud, though it shares New Hampshire’s concerns about the opioid crisis and is committed to finding solutions.
In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges of deceptive conduct, but the New Hampshire lawsuit alleges that it has continued the same practices.
There are calls for the U.S. president to officially declare opioid abuse a national crisis due to the tangled web of problems linked to the drug.
For more on the heroin epidemic and the role that drug companies play in it, read our in-depth article “Battling Heroin Abuse.”
This article contains information from The Associated Press.