Today Kentucky Attorney General, Greg Stumbo, and Pikes County officials filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the makers of the highly abused painkiller Oxycontin. The drug has come to be called “hillbilly heroin” due to its overwhelming abuse in states like Kentucky and Virginia. The drug is fitted with a time-release coating but resourceful abusers have developed a simple method to circumvent it. The lawsuit seeks millions of dollars worth of reimbursement for prescriptions paid for by Medicaid and the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Assistance program.
The plaintiffs are also seeking unspecified punitive damages and compensation for the high cost of drug abuse programs and law enforcement expenses that have been incurred in association with Oxycontin. Six other counties have pledged to join the suit and many others are expected to follow in coming weeks.
Kentucky officials decided to pursue the lawsuit after the drug maker and three of its current or former executives pleaded guilty in May to misleading the public about the drug’s risk of addiction. They agreed to pay $634.5 million in fines for claiming the drug was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications.
The plea agreement came two days after the company agreed to pay $19.5 million to 26 states and Washington, D.C., to settle complaints that it encouraged physicians to overprescribe the drug.
Oxycontin is responsible for hundreds of overdose and abuse related deaths over the past few years and has been treated like an epidemic in many parts of the country. Purdue Pharma claims that Oxycontin warns about its potential for abuse and that they should not be held responsible for what people what individuals choose to do beyond the drug’s intended use. They also say that they will defend the lawsuit and expect to be victorious.
For more information on this subject, please refer to the section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.