Idaho sues OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, accuses family of profiting from opioid crisis

The suit also names eight members of the Sackler family.

June 6, 2019, 5:54 PM

Idaho is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and the family that owns the privately held company for their alleged role in the opioid crisis, accusing them of mounting one of the "deadliest marketing campaigns in history," the state attorney general's office confirmed on Thursday.

Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden filed the suit in Idaho’s Fourth Judicial District Court on Monday, echoing the language of dozens of other states' attorneys general who have already sued the opioid manufacturer.

Wasden's suit also names eight members of the Sackler family: Richard Sackler, Theresa Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, Mortimer D.A. Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt. Of the thousands of lawsuits filed against Purdue, only a few dozen name Sackler family members as well.

"Between 1999 and 2017, Idaho’s opioid-related death rate nearly tripled. In 2015 alone, approximately 1.3 million opioid prescriptions were written in Idaho—nearly one prescription for every man, woman, and child in the State," the lawsuit said. "This crisis and its consequences could and should have been avoided."

In a statement, a representative for the drug maker wrote: "Purdue Pharma vigorously denies the allegations contained in litigation against the company and will continue to defend itself against these misleading attacks."

"These sensationalized claims are part of a continuing effort to try these cases in the court of public opinion rather than the justice system, as plaintiffs are unable to connect the conduct alleged to the harm described. Instead, they have invented stunningly overbroad legal theories, which if adopted by courts, will undermine the bedrock legal principle of causation," the Purdue statement continued.

A representative for the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler families said in a statement to ABC News, "This baseless lawsuit is yet another misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis. We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them."

"We have always acted properly and are committed to supporting solutions that save lives by preventing addiction and abuse of prescription medicines and treating those who are suffering from addiction," the Sackler families' statement said.

Wasden's suit claims that Purdue "campaigned for sweeping changes in the public’s and medical community’s perception of opioids, by both downplaying the risks associated with opioid use and aggressively encouraging much broader use of the drugs than medically necessary or appropriate."

The lawsuit alleges that the company "misled and deceived doctors into prescribing more of Purdue’s opioids, in increasingly dangerous doses, and for longer periods of time, while persuading doctors and patients alike to forego safer alternatives" which eventually led to the current opioid crisis.

ABC News’ Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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