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Opioid Lawsuits Intensify as Hundreds of Cities and Counties Sue Sackler Family

The owners of Purdue Pharma were sued in joint litigation this week by more than 500 cities and counties, from about two dozen states, for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis with deceptive marketing, adding to the massive legal pressure against the group that controls the Stamford-based company.

By Paul Schott

The owners of Purdue Pharma were sued in joint litigation this week by more than 500 cities and counties, from about two dozen states, for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis with deceptive marketing, adding to the massive legal pressure against the group that controls the Stamford-based company.

Filed in federal court in New York, the complaint's accusations against eight Sackler family members parallel those in lawsuits recently filed by the attorneys general of Connecticut and Massachusetts. Purdue is not named as a defendant in the new case, but much of it focuses on Purdue's practices, including its alleged "false marketing tactics (that) created an overwhelming demand" for prescription opioids such as OxyContin and purported failure to report known over-prescribing doctors.

"Not only did the Sackler defendants create and aggressively market opioids for general and ubiquitous use, but the Sackler defendants knew about the dangers of prescription opioids and pushed to increase sales despite the devastating consequences of the public health crisis," the complaint said, in part.

The Sacklers named in the lawsuit could not be immediately reached for comment. In previous statements, they have denied fraudulently marketing their company's opioids.

In a statement, Purdue denied the allegations.

"This complaint is part of a continuing effort by contingency-fee counsel to single out Purdue, blame it for the entire opioid crisis in the United States and try the case in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system," the statement said, in part.

The lawsuit's plaintiffs include cities and counties in states including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, West Virginia, as well as a number of Native American nations.

No Connecticut cities or towns are plaintiffs in the new case.

In total, more than 1,000 lawsuits

have been filed against Purdue. Massachusetts and Connecticut were the first two states to not only sue Purdue as a company, but also the Sacklers who control the firm.

Last January, a Connecticut Superior Court judge dismissed a similar group of lawsuits that included complaints filed by the municipal governments of Bridgeport, New Haven, New Britain and Waterbury. Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury are challenging the decision in the state's Appellate Court.

(c)2019 The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.)

Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's senior web editor.
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