By Taylor Knopf
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma on Tuesday.
Stein alleges that Purdue Pharma used deceptive marketing to push its Oxycontin pills on North Carolinians from 2007 to present. Five other state’s attorneys general also filed a similar lawsuit against Purdue Pharma on Tuesday, Stein said.
This is in addition to a larger investigation into multiple drug manufacturers and distributors Stein and 40 other attorneys general launched.
“Through its deceptive marketing, Purdue Pharma helped to create and fuel an overprescription crisis that contributed to this epidemic in North Carolina,” Stein alleged during a Tuesday press conference.
“Purdue sought to create demand by claiming that pain is undertreated, then oversold the effectiveness of Oxycontin at treating pain while at the same time downplaying its risks,” he continued.
Stein outlined four “key and troubling Purdue marketing practices.”
Citing Purdue’s marketing materials, he claimed Purdue promoted something called “pseudoaddiction” to distract physicians from their concerns over the addictive nature of opioids.
“With no valid scientific basis, the company aggressively marketed the idea that people often engage in desperate drug-seeking behavior, not because they are addicted, but because they are not receiving enough opioids,” Stein said.
When doctors expressed concerns about Oxycontin, Stein claims Purdue marketers minimized them and encouraged the physicians to just prescribe more pills.
“Some of Purdue’s own doctors eventually acknowledged that pseudoaddiction was actually an excuse to give patients more medication and led us down a path that causes harm,” Stein claimed.
Second, Stein alleged Purdue discredited non-addictive alternatives such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
“Purdue told prescribers that these non-addictive drugs are actually riskier than opioids for chronic pain,” he said.
Third, Stein alleged that Purdue pushed for higher dosages in order to sell more product.
“Purdue claimed no maximum dosage limits for Oxycontin, and that the only real limit is when the patient’s life is threatened with respiratory depression,” Stein said.
And lastly, Stein charged that Purdue targeted vulnerable populations, including the elderly and military veterans, to increase sales.