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OxyContin Makers Face Huge Penalty for Allegedly Contributing to Widespread Drug Addiction

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After winning more than 400 dismissals of personal-injury lawsuits and avoiding more than 10 efforts to wage class-actions against it, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin may have to pay a devastating $1 billion over allegations that the company contributed to widespread drug addiction.

OxyContin, also known as Hillbilly Heroin, is a powerful opioid painkiller that offers 12 hours of time-released relief, which allows patients to take fewer pills. Drug addicts discovered how to defeat the time-release system as soon as OxyContin hit the market in 1995. By crushing the pills, drug abusers could snort or inject the drug for an intense, immediate high. The drug’s maker, Purdue Pharma, developed a tamper-resistant version of OxyContin in 2010, but a 2012 study found that many addicts simply turned to heroin and other drugs to get high, according to NewsLeader.com.

Purdue is accused in a Kentucky civil suit that the it caused and/or contributed to OxyContin addiction on a massive scale. Many of the addicts, desperate to feed their habit, found themselves in jail or in treatment centers after crime sprees, and some closed their eyes and never woke up.  Purdue denies that it played any role in the addicts’ demise, NewsLeader.com reported.

The company says the lawsuit could cost them $1 billion, a “catastrophic” amount, based on Kentucky’s allegations and the potential for punitive damages and pre- and post-judgment interest. Lawsuits have been filed against Purdue and other opioid makers this year by Illinois and California and the Kentucky suit could trigger more litigation similar to the Big Tobacco lawsuits of the 1990s that cost tobacco makers billions of dollars, according to NewsLeader.com.

The Kentucky suit accuses Purdue Pharma of training its sales forces to falsely portray OxyContin as difficult to abuse, despite a study conducted by the drug maker that found users could easily extract most of the active ingredient from a tablet by crushing it. The action also alleges the company concealed information about the dangers of OxyContin. The suit includes 12 claims against Purdue, including Medicaid fraud, false advertising, creating a public nuisance and unjust enrichment. Abbott Laboratories is also a Defendant in the case. Abbott used to co-promote OxyContin with Purdue. Abbott has denied any wrongdoing and Purdue is required by contract to indemnify the company in the lawsuit, NewsLeader.com reported.

Purdue settled litigation with federal prosecutors in 2007 after one of the company’s units and three top executives pleaded “guilty” to “misbranding” the opioid drug as less addictive than other narcotics. The company paid a $634 million fine, making it the 11th largest fine in a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) case. About $160 million went to reimburse the federal government and states for damages suffered by Medicaid programs as a result of the improper promotion of OxyContin. Kentucky was the only state to refuse the money, opting, instead, to file a lawsuit, according to NewsLeader.com.

“I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did,” Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway told NewsLeader.com. “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.”

breakinglawsuitnews.com disclaimer: This article: OxyContin Makers Face Huge Penalty for Allegedly Contributing to Widespread Drug Addiction was posted on Friday, October 24th, 2014 at 2:24 pm at breakinglawsuitnews.com and is filed under Personal Injury Lawsuits.

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