Massachusetts sues opioid maker Purdue Pharma, executives

Leslie Hanson
June 15, 2018

MA on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the OxyContin maker of illegally promoting the use of opioids, and became the first state to sue the drugmaker's executives and directors to hold them responsible as well.

Framingham this month became the most recent to announce plans for a state lawsuit, and Greenfield in December 2017 became the first MA community to file a suit in U.S. District Court. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including the chief executive, Craig Landau, and eight members across three generations of the Sackler family that wholly owns Purdue.

Purdue denied the allegations, arguing in a statement that MA wants to substitute its views in place of the judgment of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has approved the use of its products.

Authorities claim that the drug maker kept the risk of opioids hidden from doctors and their patients, incentivized doctors to keep patients on prescription drugs unnecessarily, and marketed aggressively the highly addictive painkillers to vulnerable demographic groups, like military vets and seniors.

"It was Purdue's executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few while leaving a path of devastation and destruction in its wake", she said.

"Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made - and the more people died", Healey said. Two dozen states have already filed complaints against Purdue.

She said during a press conference in her office that her suit was the first in the country to personally name the executives and "tell the story of how they contributed to this deadly crisis".

In a statement, Purdue says it vigorously denies the allegations.


Purdue spokesman Bob Josephson said the company was "disappointed" in the lawsuit. We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has made a decision to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process.

It also promised to work with other states to find "meaningful solutions".

A number of CT municipalities, including Waterbury and New Britain, have banded together to sue Purdue Pharma and several other drugmakers that created and marketed prescription opioids.

But Gov. Charlie Baker suggested that was way too late.

Baker welcomed the lawsuit, saying it lays bare the role of prescription painkillers in "causing chaos, heartache and death" across the state and nation.

The suit against Purdue aims to hold the company accountable and force it to change its practices, along with seeking damages and penalties, Healey said.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuit on Tuesday, six panels were propped near the podium printed with the names of MA residents who died of opioid-related overdoses since 2008.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Suffolk Superior Court, names current and former directors and executives of the pharma company as well, making MA the first state to hold these executives personally responsible for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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