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Alabama Sues Opioid Makers

Alabama’s attorney general is suing the makers of name-brand and generic prescription opioid pain medicines, including OxyContin, over damage wrought by addiction. 

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Attorney General Steve Marshall said opioid medications, and the aftermath of their use, have caused devastation in Alabama that will take years to undo. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, and a halt to the sale of the drugs in his state.

“The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding though every community of this state,” Marshall said in a press release. “Alabama ranks first in the nation for the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita. As a result, it is estimated that almost 30,000 of our residents over age 17 are dependent upon heroin and prescription painkillers.

“Alabama’s drug overdose death rate skyrocketed by 82 percent from 2006 to 2014 and it is believed that many of those deaths were from opioid painkillers and heroin,” Marshall said. “It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens.”

Purdue released a statement noting that its opioid pain medications have been approved for use by federal regulators, and also noting that they account for only about 2 percent of opioid prescriptions.

“As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge,” Purdue said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in federal court in Montgomery, but may be transferred to Cleveland, Ohio as part of a national combined lawsuit against the opioid makers. It alleges the drug companies violated Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act and jeopardized the public health.

In Cleveland, a federal judge is overseeing more than 200 lawsuits filed mostly by local governments against the opioid makers, and has said he’s hoping the parties will work out a settlement.

The defendants in the lawsuit are Purdue Pharma, L.P., Purdue Frederick Company Inc., and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, L.P., which make several opioid painkillers.

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