By Paul Schott

Six states this week sued Purdue Pharma alleging deceptive marketing of its drugs, as litigation continues to mount against the Stamford company tied to its role in the national opioid crisis.

The accusations in the new complaints filed in Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas parallel those made in hundreds of other lawsuits filed by cities, counties and states in the past few years.

Prosecutors say they are trying to hold Purdue accountable for its promotion and distribution of painkillers such as its top-selling OxyContin and make it pay its share for the billions of dollars spent annually nationwide by public agencies to respond to the epidemic of opioid abuse.

"We are in the midst of a national opioid crisis claiming 175 lives a day nationally and 15 lives a day in Florida, and I will not tolerate anyone profiting from the pain and suffering of Floridians," Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement Tuesday. "The complaint I filed today seeks to hold some of the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in this crisis and seeks payment for the pain and destruction their actions have caused Florida and its citizens."

A message left Wednesday for Purdue was not immediately returned.

Meanwhile, a Cleveland-based federal judge, Dan Polster, is overseeing "multidistrict litigation" comprising several hundred of the complaints filed against Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors.

Settlement discussions have made "good progress," according to Polster. But three cases -- two of which name Purdue as a defendant -- could be heard in a trial starting next March.

At the same time, several hundred other lawsuits against Purdue and other pharmaceutical firms that are not included in the multidistrict group are proceeding through the courts.

In Connecticut, a number of cases filed by cities and towns across the state -- including complaints from Bridgeport, New Haven and Waterbury -- have been grouped together and will be heard by Judge Thomas Moukawsher in state Superior Court in Hartford.

The state of Connecticut does not have an active lawsuit against Purdue, but state Attorney General George Jepsen belongs to a 41-state coalition of attorneys general who are investigating Purdue, five other major opioid makers and three distributors, as well as exploring settlements of potential claims against those companies.

Representatives of the coalition, which launched in 2016, are participating in the settlement discussions overseen by Polster. A potential settlement that would arise from the multidistrict litigation would still include Connecticut and other states that have not sued, according to sources familiar with the process.

Litigation against Purdue from the private sector is also increasing. Earlier this month, a group of five class-action lawsuits were filed in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, and California seeking damages for practices that allegedly drove up individuals' and companies' health-insurance costs.

(c)2018 The Advocate (Stamford, Conn.)