Kentucky Files Lawsuit To Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Kentucky Fights Prescription Drug Abuse and Addiction with Lawsuit Against Pharma Companies

prescription painkiller abusePrescription drug abuse has been labeled an epidemic in the United States, and, because opioid painkillers have similar chemical compounds to heroin, the problem has also led to a resurgence in heroin addiction, overdose, and death.

Both heroin and prescription drugs are very easy to acquire in the US, because so many people are prescribed opioid painkillers after minor surgeries or accidents, and heroin is inexpensive. With many states cracking down on doctors’ prescribing practices, pill mills, and tracking potential addictive behaviors in patients through statewide databases, more opioid addicts turn to heroin after becoming hooked through Vicodin or OxyContin.

Prescription drug abuse and overdose is rampant in the South, especially in the Appalachian area of Kentucky. Now, the Attorney General of Kentucky, Jack Conway, has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of OxyContin, because the company did not disclose the addictive dangers of their strong opioid painkiller, and that has led to numerous lives ruined through addiction and untimely death.

“This is about holding them accountable,” said Conway. “They played a pre-eminent role in the state’s drug problem. This started to explode in the mid-1990s, when Purdue Pharma was marketing OxyContin. The resulting opiate epidemic … is a direct result.”

Other communities like Chicago and two counties in California have filed similar lawsuits. Kentucky’s prescription drug abuse injury lawsuit could go to trial this year.

Kentucky’s lawsuit alleges that Purdue in particular practiced “aggressive and deceptive marketing” to mislead doctors and consumers regarding OxyContin’s safety. Because so many patients have become addicted to the opioid painkiller, the state claims its residents have been saddled with a massive tax burden in social and healthcare costs.

“We disagree on the merits of this lawsuit,” says a statement from Richard Silbert, associate general counsel for Connecticut-based Purdue. “Courts in Kentucky and elsewhere have dismissed claims against Purdue because the evidence did not establish that our marketing caused the harm they alleged. We believe that the Commonwealth likewise” won’t be able to show it.

Appalachian cities and towns rely on coal mining as the base of their economy, which means that many workers in the area suffer from chronic pain due to injury. Doctors prescribe opioid painkillers to help treat back, shoulder, and leg injuries regularly, and that can easily become addiction for many patients.

OxyContin was approved by the FDA in 1995 as a potential solution to immediate-release painkillers. The drug is designed to release into the patient’s system over a long period, up to 12 hours in some cases, to help manage chronic pain without the patient ingesting too many pills at once, and hopefully preventing addiction. Conway and many former prescription drug addicts, however, argue that Purdue misled doctors and patients with this type of marketing, and say that their experience shows the drug is just as addictive as other prescription painkillers.

Purdue settled a similar case in 2007, filed by the state of Virginia, in which three CEOs pleaded guilty to federal charges and agreed to pay $600 million, a portion of which reimbursed the states’ Medicare programs. That money was disbursed over many states, including Kentucky, which refused its $500,000 from that lawsuit and pushed its own prescription drug lawsuit up to federal court.

“OxyContin changed the face of addiction in this region,” says Dan Smoot, president of the eastern Kentucky anti-drug organization Operation UNITE. “It made addicts out of people who otherwise weren’t. It drove this region crazy.”

The Strom Law Firm Protects Against Prescription Drug Abuse Charges

Being arrested for prescription drug abuse in South Carolina is something that can be devastating financially and emotionally, and can have long-lasting personal and professional consequences. We understand what you are going through, and we are here to help. We offer free, confidential consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.

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