DEFLECTING BLAME FOR OPIOID CRISIS –
Illicit drugs and dealers are currently driving deaths, Purdue argues.
By Beth Mole, 3/6/2019
| Ars Technica – In a motion to dismiss an explosive lawsuit brought by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma argues that it is not responsible for the current epidemic of opioid overdoses as the Commonwealth alleges –even if the people now overdosing were initially patients who became addicted to opioids while using its highly addictive painkiller.
Purdue, which forcefully marketed OxyContin after its 1995 FDA approval, notes that opioid overdose deaths are currently driven by use of illicit opioids, namely heroin and fentanyl.
Those overdoses, regardless of whether they stem from an addiction formed using OxyContin, are “far removed from a physician prescribing a Purdue medication,” the company argues. The motion goes on:
“Those alleged harms happen because of numerous additional intervening acts, including criminal acts by third parties such as drug dealers who sold deadly heroin and fentanyl in the Commonwealth. These are not Purdue’s acts and any connection between Purdue and these illegal acts is too remote to be actionable.”
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from opioid pain killers rose in parallel with the amount (in kilograms) of opioids sold in the US—both quadrupling within the time frame of 1999 and 2010. While opioid prescriptions leveled off and began declining in 2012, deaths from the extremely potent opioid fentanyl began spiking nationwide in 2013. Likewise, deaths from heroin also didn’t begin significant upticks until around 2011.
In 2017, synthetic narcotics (mainly fentanyl) accounted for 28,466 of the more than 70,200 overdose deaths in the country (around 40 percent), while heroin alone accounted for 15,482 (22 percent).
Meanwhile, prescription opioids, including OxyContin, jumped five-fold between 1999 and 2017, causing 17,029 deaths that year (24 percent).
Purdue, however, argues that OxyContin prescriptions account for a small percentage of prescription opioids nationwide, currently less than 2 percent and never more than 4 percent. Tiny State Takes on Pharma Giant, Plans to Win
Purdue further argues that even if the Commonwealth’s allegations that the pharmaceutical company spurred the epidemic could legally be proven, the Commonwealth’s statutes of limitations (three to four years for applicable claims) would, in part, clear Purdue of wrongdoing. Read more.