AG lambasts Purdue for fighting his opioid marketing probe

Purdue Pharma’s highly addictive opioid Oxycontin has led to the company being maligned in lawsuits, by law enforcement officials and state and federal lawmakers. Now the Attorney General of New Hampshire is accusing the company of dragging its feet in his investigation into Purdue’s marketing of the drug.

AG Joseph Foster says Purdue Pharma is fighting the state in court instead of turning over documents his office has requested about the marketing of the drug in New Hampshire. Purdue is one of a number of drugmakers that Foster’s office began looking into a year ago, although none were named when it launched the probe. At the time, he said he wanted to know if drugmakers downplayed the risks of addiction and overplayed the benefits of their super potent painkillers.

“The companies tell me they have absolutely nothing to hide. Why are they fighting so hard turning over their documents if that's the case?” Foster told WMUR9 television. He said his office will fight the matter in court if the companies refuse to comply.

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In an emailed statement, Purdue said: "The Attorney General has repeatedly refused to accept the information we’ve offered to provide."  

This is only one of any number of legal actions tied to opioid marketing by Purdue and other companies. A handful of companies, including Purdue, Allergan ($AGN) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), have been sued the city of Chicago, which accuses them of contributing to a dramatic rise in opioid and heroin addiction in the city and seeking to recover some of the costs of dealing with what has been termed an epidemic.

Several months ago, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts asked the FDA, FTC and the DOJ all to investigate whether Purdue had downplayed evidence the painkiller wore off much faster than its labeled 12 hours in many people, making them more likely to get addicted. The suggestion had been made in stories by the Los Angeles Times, which Purdue has refuted. 

While Oxycontin’s one-time leading position in the market, made Purdue an obvious target, other opioid makers also are facing legal entanglements over their marketing. Illinois AG Lisa Madigan last week filed suit against Phoenix, AZ-based Insys Therapeutics ($INSY) accusing the company of boosting its profits by “deceptively marketing and selling” its sprayed opioid drug Subsys for off-label uses. It is approved as a break-through pain treatment for cancer patients. The suit alleges the company has targeted doctors, who instead of treating cancer patients, prescribe high volumes of opioids to patients who suffer from things like back pain. One sales rep and a nurse practitioner have pleaded guilty to charges that made similar allegations.

- here’s the WMUR9 story

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