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Oxycontin Maker Slapped with Billion-Dollar Lawsuit

Like every other state in the nation, Kentucky has been dealing with a surge in Oxycontin-related deaths, crime and addiction over the last several years. But lawmakers in the Bluegrass State are doing things differently this time around – they’re trying to hold the makers of the drug accountable for the epidemic.

Going After the Source

Kentucky filed a $1 billion lawsuit against Purdue, the makers of Oxycontin, accusing them of “misleading doctors by withholding information about the potential dangers of the drug and its relative ease to abuse.”

However, according to research conducted and released by Purdue, crushing the pills transforms the drug into an “abusable substance.”

Purdue’s CFO, Edward Mahony, has acknowledged that losing the case would “jeopardize Purdue’s long-term viability” and effectively shut down many of their operations. However, this has not swayed Kentucky officials from moving forward with the lawsuit.

“I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did,” said Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway. “We have lost an entire generation. Half the pharmacies in Pike County have bulletproof glass. We had FedEx trucks being knocked off. It was the Wild West.”

Putting up a Fight

Purdue has denied the accusations against them, saying they have tried to prevent Oxycontin abuse by developing an abuse-resistant version of the pill that is virtually impossible to crush and snort. However, they haven’t exactly been cooperative with authorities.

In early 2013, Purdue refused to turn over lists of high-volume Oxycontin prescribers to California law enforcement. The pharmaceutical giant eventually gave in, releasing the names a full six months later. They also spent $643.5 million in fines to satisfy the Justice Department’s off-label marketing claims.

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Addictive vs. Really Addictive

“…Oxycontin is now the fastest growing drug of abuse in North America.”A study published in the latest issue of the European Journal of Neuroscience also found that oxycodone has a higher probability for addiction than other opioids.

When compared to morphine or other opiate substances, researchers found there were larger amounts of dopamine released in the brain with oxycodone use. Lead investigator Caitlin Vander Weele said these findings might explain why Oxycontin is now the fastest growing drug of abuse in North America.

Courtroom Drama

Kentucky isn’t the first to sue in the name of addiction. Other parts of the country are taking a stand against “big pharma” drug companies. Last June, Chicago sued five drug companies, including Johnson & Johnson, accusing each one of creating addicts by pushing for excessive use of opioid painkillers.

Purdue, Endo Health Solutions Inc. (which makes Percocet and Percodan), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. and Actavis Plc. were also named in the Chicago suit. The city is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

In May, two California counties, Orange and Santa Clarita, also filed lawsuits against all but one of the five named in the Chicago suit (except for Teva). The pharmaceutical giants are accused of lying about the effects of their drugs in order to convince doctors they should continue prescribing the medications and, ultimately, increase their profits.

Learn more about the treatment options for Oxycontin abuse and addiction.

Photo Source: istock