In New Lawsuit, Vermont Seeks Monetary Damages From Company That Makes OxyContin

Sep 5, 2018

Vermont has became the latest state to file suit against Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut-based drugmaker that manufactures the opioid painkiller OxyContin.

In a civil complaint filed in Chittenden County on Wednesday, Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan accused Purdue Pharma of using “unfair and deceptive trade practices” to orchestrate a “distorted symphony of misrepresentations about the benefits and safety of long-term opioid use.”

Donovan said Purdue Pharma’s marketing tactics violated Vermont’s consumer protection act, as well as its public nuisance law. Purdue Pharma, he said, should be on the hook for the considerable costs Vermont has incurred to treat people with opioid use disorder.

“We’re looking for money,” Donovan said in an interview Wednesday.

“When you look at this crisis — this epidemic — all one has to do to trace the arc to the origin of this crisis is to go back to Purdue Pharma’s original marketing of OxyContin,” Donovan also said.

At least 26 other states have filed similar suits against Purdue Pharma. Donovan, however, said Vermont has a “unique story to tell.”

The lawsuit traces Purdue’s alleged misdeeds back to the late 1990s, when, according to the suit, the company “set out to effect a sweeping change in the public and medical community’s perception of opioids—by downplaying the risks and aggressively encouraging much broader use.”

Donovan said Wednesday those practices continue to this day, despite a 2007 criminal case in which three Purdue executives pleaded guilty to “deceptive conduct in the sale and marketing of opioids.” The company later paid more than $600 million to resolve federal enforcement actions.

“We want Purdue to change the way it’s doing business,” Donovan said.

Reached for comment Wednesday, a Purdue spokesperson sent a written statement that said: “We vigorously deny the state’s allegations.”

“The state claims Purdue acted improperly by communicating with prescribers about scientific and medical information that FDA has expressly considered and continues to approve,” the company said. “We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”