Delaware sues pharmaceutical companies for contributiong to opioid epidemic

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy. (Toby Talbot/AP Photo, File)

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy. (Toby Talbot/AP Photo, File)

Accusing Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals of misrepresenting the addictive nature of their opioid painkillers, Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn on Friday filed suit against drug manufacturers as well as retail pharmacies CVS and Walgreens.

Purdue markets the opioid painkiller oxycodone under the brand name Oxycontin, while Endo markets oxycodone under the brand name Percocet.

The lawsuit filed in Delaware Superior Court also claims the drug companies and their distributors shipped enormous quantities of the drugs into Delaware.

“They were shipping quantities of opioids around the country so enormous that they could not possibly all be for legitimate medical purposes,” said Denn.

Every year, drug companies ship more than 50 opioid pills for every person living in Delaware, according to statistics cited in the lawsuit. The suit alleges that the companies also failed to take basic steps to make sure the opioids they were shipping went to legitimate patients.

“These companies ignored red flags that opioids were being diverted from legitimate channels of distribution and use to illicit channels,” Denn said. “The failure of these corporate defendants to meet their legal obligations has had a devastating impact on Delawareans.”

Through November, 192 people died of suspected overdose in Delaware. The 2016  total of 308 OD deaths was up from 228 in 2015 and 224 in 2014. In 2015, Delaware’s drug overdose rate was the 12th highest in the country.

In November, Denn retained Fields PLLC, a law firm that’s already filed litigation against the opioid industry on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. In April, Fields filed a lawsuit in Cherokee Nation tribal court, accusing groups such as pharmaceutical distributor Cardinal Health, retail pharmacy chain CVS and Wal-Mart of “failing to prevent the flow of illegally prescribed opioids to men, women and children in the Cherokee Nation.”

In addition to drugmakers Purdue Pharma and Endo Pharmaceuticals, and retailers CVS and Walgreens, the lawsuit also accuses distributors McKesson, Cardinal Health, Amerisource Bergen, Anda Pharmaceuticals, and H.D. Smith.

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