TAZWELL COUNTY, Va - In what was described as a "decades-long campaign of lies and misrepresentations," Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring filed legal action against pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for contributing to the opioid crisis in Virginia.
In the lawsuit, Herring alleges the company lied about the addictive nature and benefits of their products while marketing false claims about the safety and effectiveness of their opioids to health care providers.
“For decades, Purdue Pharma has amassed a fortune and built an empire on suffering and lies about the dangers of its drugs and its central role in creating and profiting from the deadliest drug epidemic in American history,” Herring said. "“The opioid crisis that is touching so many Virginia families is the direct and foreseeable result of Purdue’s complex, large-scale, and years-long campaign of deception."
The lawsuit, filed in Tazwell County Circuit Court, alleges that Purdue Pharma violated the Virginia Consumer Protection Act and created a "public nuisance" through their actions. Virginia's legal action is the latest against the pharmaceutical giant, but not the first.
In response to the lawsuit, Purdue Pharma released the following statement:
“We share the Attorney General’s concern about the opioid crisis. We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Attorney General has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions to help address this public health challenge. We vigorously deny the commonwealth’s allegations and look forward to presenting our substantial defenses to these claims.”
Purdue Pharma said they have halted promotion of opioid products earlier in the year.
Braxton Collier's son Stephen died of a heroin overdose in 2014, but his addiction began with prescription opioids. Wednesday, Braxton Collier recalls his own mother's funeral in 2011, when Stephen showed up to the service high on prescription pills.
"The next morning, what he said, as he held up that vile of pills, 'The doctor prescribed them! Do you want to call him?'" Collier said.
Collier was pleased with the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, but his main message Wednesday was that opioid overdoses now kill more Virginians each year than traffic accidents.
"Please start spreading the word. People need to get educated. Education is the key," Collier said.
Nearly 8,000 Virginians died of an opioid overdose from 2007-2017, and Virginia saw its highest ever number of overdose deaths directly related to prescription opioids, according to the Virginia Department of Health.
You can read the entire complaint here: https://www.oag.state.va.us/files/Purdue-Pharma-Redacted-Complaint-filestamped.pdf