Alabama files suit against major opioid manufacturer saying they lied about the risks of their product

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Attorney General Steve Marshall announced Tuesday morning that Alabama has filed a lawsuit against a major opioid manufacturer. The attorney general says the state is seeking both monetary damages and injunctive relief.

The suit alleges that Purdue Pharma, L.P., Purdue Frederick Company Inc., and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, L.P., known as Purdue, “violated Alabama’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act in the marketing and sale of opioid drugs and, in so doing, jeopardized the public health, welfare, and safety of Alabama residents.”

The suit comes as leaders warn of a nationwide opioid crisis. “The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding through every community of this state,” said Attorney General Marshall. “Alabama ranks first in the nation for the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita.  As a result, it is estimated that almost 30,000 of our residents over age 17 are dependent upon heroin and prescription painkillers. Alabama’s drug overdose death rate skyrocketed by 82 percent from 2006 to 2014 and it is believed that many of those deaths were from opioid painkillers and heroin.”

Marshall said he anticipates the lawsuit will eventually be transferred to Ohio where multi-district litigation is ongoing. The Alabama attorney general attended the start of settlement talks in that litigation last week.

At least 13 states have filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers.

John Puskar, director of public affairs for Purdue Pharma L.P., said the company vigorously denies the allegations in the state’s lawsuit.

“We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge,” Puskar said in a statement.

He said the company has distributed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guideline for prescribing opioids for chronic pain, developed three of the first four FDA-approved opioid medications with abuse-deterrent properties and partnered with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone, a drug that reverses overdoses.

The state will be represented by law firms Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. of Montgomery and Prince, Glover & Hayes of Tuscaloosa under the supervision of attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office.