Oregon DOJ says opioid maker targets senior citizens, lied to sell drugs in the state

Oregon DOJ says opioid maker targets senior citizens, lied to sell drugs in the state

Opioid Powerhouse Purdue Pharma lied to the Oregon State's Board of Pharmacy and targeted senior citizens, claiming a lawsuit filed Thursday by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Rosenblum's office filed a complaint in a first step against the Oxycontin manufacturer on June 27 for alleged ten-year violations of state regulation. The termination required Purdue to abide by the terms of a 2007 settlement or to sue Oregon.

On Thursday, the state asked for more than $ 1 million and a ban on marketing opioids for the elderly in Oregon. The lawsuit alleges that the company distributed publications and partnerships with Oregon industry-funded advocacy organizations with false and misleading claims, trained its sales force to minimize the harm of Oxycontin, and targeted the elderly and the disabled.

"Ten years later, it's clear that Purdue disobeyed the verdict and ignored the severe federal penalties," the lawsuit says.

Oregon is part of a coordinated effort in various states to hold opioid companies accountable and to reclaim some money to pay for addiction treatment. However, this latest lawsuit is not part of this effort.

Oregon may be the first state to cite the elderly and persons with Disabilities Prevention Act to tell Purdue senior citizens. The evidence included the Oregonian / OregonLive report that in 2015, nearly every one of Oregon's over 100,000 elderly people was sent to the hospital for opioids.

The suit says that opioids can increase the risk of falls, fractures and deaths in the elderly. It also claims that the company targeted long-term care facilities and urged physicians to prescribe opioids in higher dosages than was safe for people over 65.

The lawsuit also alleges that every year, when Purdue renewed his request to sell Oxycontin in Oregon with the state Pharmacist Committee, it suffered whether it had been subjected to state and federal punishment.

Purdue was forced to pay fines, and some senior executives were charged with crimes such as the company marketed and sold Oxycontin.

Most states acknowledge the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis. Governor Kate Brown signed an executive order earlier this year, calling it a state priority.

The Oregon Department of Justice has released nearly $ 4 million from settlements to fight the opioid epidemic, including $ 760,000 to Oregon Health & Science University, which on Thursday is funding a library of evidence-based practices to prevent and treat opioid abuse.

This lawsuit comes as Oregon opioid deaths begin to spike. Public health officials earlier this year reported that fentanyl – an exceptionally strong opioid found in people who can no longer access prescription opioids – has arrived in the state. Jackson County reported an increase in deaths from opioid overdose by 70 percent in the first quarter.

Dwight Holton, former federal attorney and CEO of Lines for Life, said the move was an important step towards bringing opioid companies to justice.

Holton said he was disappointed with the lack of cooperation in curbing the opioid epidemic. He said this lawsuit could make Purdue a better partner.

"I hope that this action will help account for and bring them to the negotiating table," Holton said. "They should help us and they were not."

– Molly Harbarger

mharbarger@oregonian.com
503-294-5923
@MollyHarbarger

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