Montana AG files suit against opioid manufacturer

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox announced Dec. 4 that his office filed a consumer protection lawsuit in Montana District Court against Purdue Pharma LLC for ongoing deceptive marketing practices involving its prescription opioids, including OxyContin.

“Pharmaceutical companies that knowingly and deceptively harm consumers must be held accountable,” Fox said. “As our investigation revealed and our complaint alleges, for years, Purdue knew the damage caused by OxyContin, and rather than scale back or eliminate distribution of the drug, it ramped-up deceptive marketing tactics to present the drug as ‘safe.’ Purdue manipulates doctors, lies to consumers, and its actions contributed to thousands of deaths across the country.”

Last week, Cascade County commissioners approved a retention agreement with several law firms to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers. During the Dec. 5 City Commission work session, commissioners and staff will discuss the possibility of a similar retention agreement to pursue litigation on the city’s behalf.

Cascade County first in Montana to pursue litigation against opioid manufacturers

The violations committed by Purdue for which Fox’s office claims in the suit include:

  • Misrepresenting the likelihood that long-term use of its drug would lead to addiction;
  • Falsely claiming that use of OxyContin would improve overall health quality, and failing to disclose the harmful side effects caused by long-term opioid use;
  • Falsely claiming long-term opioid use is safe and effective pain treatment, even though Purdue had no evidence to prove it;
  • Telling prescribers that OxyContin works for 12 hours, even though Purdue knew that it did not for many patients, requiring frequent increases in dosage, thus increasing the likelihood of addiction;
  • Claiming that its new generation of abuse-deterrence opioids were safer and would prevent abuse and diversion, when Purdue knew that the drugs were still readily abused;
  • And falsely claiming that opioids are safer than alternative, non-narcotic treatment.

Since the year 2000, more than 700 people in Montana died from opioid overdose. Between 2011 and 2013, more than 7,000 Montanans went to the emergency room as a result of prescription drug overdose and during that same two-year time period, prescription drugs were responsible for at least 369 deaths, according to Fox’s office.

Through the lawsuit, Fox is seeking:

  • Injunctive relief to stop Purdue’s deceptive marketing practices;
  • Damages for, and abatement of, the public health epidemic that Purdue has created;
  • Three times the amount of damages sustained by the state in paying for opioids for first-line treatment of chronic pain and treating the adverse effects of opioid use through Montana Medicaid Program and the Montana Healthcare Plan;
  • Damages, including punitive damages, for money spent by the state as a result of Purdue’s conduct;
  • Disgorgement of Purdue’s unjustified profit; and
  • The maximum civil penalties allowed for each violation of the law, along with any other injunctive and equitable relief within the court’s powers to redress and halt Purdue’s unlawful practices.

The lawsuit filed by Fox is a civil enforcement action taken against Purdue for ongoing violation of multiple Montana consumer protection laws. It is not a class action suit on behalf of individual plaintiffs affected by Purdue’s product.

Click here to view the full complaint.