SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California’s attorney general on Monday sued the pharmaceutical company behind the painkiller OxyContin, alleging it falsely promoted the drug as not addictive even as it emerged as among the most widely abused in the United States.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused Purdue and its former president, Dr. Richard Sackler, of stoking the crisis with irresponsible practices.
America’s most populous state is the latest to join a number of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma as the country grapples with a rising number of fatal drug overdoses linked to opioids.
“Purdue and the Sackler’s traded the health and well-being of Californians for profit and created an unprecedented national public health crisis in the process,” Becerra said at a news conference. “But we will hold them accountable.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says opioids were involved in more than 47,000 fatal overdoses during 2017 alone.
Purdue and other opioid manufacturers have faced a growing number of lawsuits from state and local governments over the marketing and promotion of opioids.
Purdue stopped marketing OxyContin last year. It settled a lawsuit by the state of Oklahoma in March for $270 million. The company has also said it is pursuing several options, including bankruptcy, which could upend pending litigation by state and local governments across the country.
“Purdue Pharma and Dr. Sackler started the fire and then poured gasoline on the opioid crisis with practices that were irresponsible, unconscionable and unlawful,” Becerra said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.
A dozen other states have sued at least one member of the Sackler family over the toll of opioids.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has said it will no longer accept gifts from the Sackler family, the New York Times reported.