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Vermont Attorney General Files Suit Against Purdue Pharma Over Opioid Marketing

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan (file)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announces lawsuit against Purdue Pharma

Vermont’s Attorney General is suing Purdue Pharma, saying the manufacturer of Oxycontin has driven the opioid addiction crisis. T.J. Donovan says the billion dollar industry must account for misleading marketing.
Standing in front of the Chittenden County Superior Court in Burlington, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced the state has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of Oxycontin and other opioids.  He says the suit alleges Purdue’s marketing, promotion and sale of opioids in the state violates Vermont’s Consumer Protection Act and public nuisance law.  “The basis of our lawsuit is this: Purdue Pharma lied. They misrepresented. They fabricated. They deceived and they spread falsehoods. And they made billions off of it. And they created a path of destruction that the state of Vermont is still reeling from. Purdue deceptively said that Oxycontin and other opiates were safe and effective for long term chronic pain. Vermont has suffered too long. Too many lives have been ruined. And this epidemic that we talk about so much in this state started with a falsehood.”

Donovan says the opioid epidemic can be directly traced to Purdue Pharma.  “To trace the arc of this crisis one need not look any further than Purdue Pharma’s original marketing plan of Oxycontin and other opiates.  This was the genesis of our crisis. We look forward to holding Purdue Pharma accountable. We seek legal redress from them. We’re looking for the money the state of Vermont has spent to abate this crisis and the money the state of Vermont needs to continue to finish this job and solve this crisis.  We have done great things in this state to address it. But it’s time for corporate accountability. That’s why we filed a lawsuit: to hold Purdue Pharma accountable for the destruction they brought to our state.”

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger has made combating the opioid crisis a priority.  He says it will take a massive effort for years to provide treatment for people suffering from addiction.  “This is a crisis that was man-made. It was self-perpetuated and I believe when the history is fully written it will show that the actions of Purdue Pharma through misrepresentations were if not the leading cause certainly one of the greatest causes of this crisis. We are at the city level and at the state level continuing to strain under the pressures created by this epidemic. And what today’s lawsuit does is it moves us closer to the day when states and localities fighting this fight have the resources they need to wage this battle.”

Donovan is not asking for specific monetary damages.  "I’m not asking for a specific amount.  I think that amount will be determined through the course of this litigation. We’re also asking for injunctive relief. We’re asking that a court to enjoin Purdue from stop doing business the way it’s done business. We can’t afford it literally anymore."

In a statement emailed to WAMC Purdue Pharma notes that their opioids account for less than 2 percent of of total prescriptions.  It continues “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. We believe it is inappropriate for the state to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the regulatory, scientific and medical experts at FDA.”

The Vermont Attorney General’s office has retained the law firms of Cohen Milstein and Zimmerman Reed as co-counsel.