Lawsuit says drug company trivialized addiction risk

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New York's acting attorney general announced Wednesday that the state is preparing to sue the maker of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, making NY the seventh state to announce a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma this week.

USA state attorneys general of Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee claim Purdue Pharma violated state consumer protection laws by falsely denying or downplaying the addiction risk while overstating the benefits of opioids.

Texas, North Carolina, Nevada, Florida and North Dakota are joining the state's lawsuit.

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"It looks like we're watching other states and then jumping on board", said state Rep. Kim Coleman, R-West Jordan.

Opioids are a family of drugs that include prescription painkillers such as OxyContin as well as illegal drugs like heroin. Between 2010 and 2016, he says opioid-related emergency room encounters increased by 136 percent.

Paxton underscored that of the top 25 cities for opioid abuse, four are in Texas - Texarkana, Amarillo, Odessa, and Longview. The Act forbids misrepresentation of products to Texans. Numerous suits claim companies aggressively marketed opioids while downplaying the risk of addiction and shipped suspiciously large quantities of painkillers without alerting authorities.

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During the press conference, Paxton called the consumer protection lawsuit the "next step".

Wolff said San Antonio and Bexar County have made progress toward gaining control of the opioid epidemic through educational efforts by the Joint Opioid Task Force, a City/County collaboration to reduce the number of drug overdose deaths in the greater San Antonio area.

Last year, Paxton joined 40 other state attorneys general in serving investigative subpoenas to eight pharmaceutical companies that manufactured or distributed these highly addictive pain killers. Purdue Pharma is the manufacturer of OxyContin.

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The state hasn't identified the total amount it is seeking from Purdue Pharma, but it's asking the court to order the company to pay up to $20,000 for each deceptive trade practice violation.

While Wolff said he does not know how much money the county could collect, he said there is a chance that it could be as successful as lawsuits against the tobacco industry, noting similarities in the two cases. The suit is a warning that Florida officials are "fully prepared to go to war" if the companies balk at a settlement, she added. With no scientific basis, the company would downplay doctors' fears to push more opioids on patients. "It's too little, too late for so numerous Texas families suffering from the opioid crisis", Nelson said.

"Needless to say, our country is feeling a lot of pain in the hands of pain pills", Paxton said.

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