New Hampshire AG launches investigation into opioid marketing

New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster

Amid growing backlash from state and local lawmakers over opioid marketing, New Hampshire in investigating several drugmakers for potential violations. The state says pain drug companies may have intentionally exaggerated their products' benefits while downplaying serious risks.

The state isn't naming any names, but the Attorney General's office alleges that certain pharma companies' false advertising of opioids could have misled patients and doctors and caused New Hampshire to pay for "potentially dangerous and unnecessary opioid prescriptions." More individuals are turning to heroin when they can't afford prescription painkillers. And the corresponding cost to the healthcare system and law enforcement has been "overwhelming," New Hampshire Attorney General Joseph Foster said in a statement.

"As is evident to medical professionals, law enforcement, and families across the state, we have an opioid crisis in which overprescribing of opioids has created a corresponding wave of abuse, diversion and addiction, with tragic results for individual patients, their loved ones, and communities," Foster said in a statement. "We have a responsibility to understand and address its causes."

The state hasn't turned up any information yet about specific marketing violations, Foster added. The Attorney General's office is already working with a state committee to propose revised rules for prescribing opioids, which could further put the heat on drugmakers marketing prescription painkillers in New Hampshire.

This is not the first time state governments have taken drugmakers to task over opioid marketing. Last year, California filed suit against Actavis ($ACT), Endo Health Solutions ($ENDP), Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries ($TEVA), accusing the 5 drugmakers of using false advertising to reap huge profits from opioid meds. A few weeks later, the city of Chicago sued the same companies for overstating the benefits of opioids while minimizing their risks.

In October 2014, Kentucky upped the ante in its suit against Purdue Pharma over false advertising for OxyContin, trying to hold the company liable for $1 billion in damages resulting from the state's "Hillbilly Heroin" addiction epidemic. The state accused Purdue of making patients and doctors believe that OxyContin was difficult to abuse, even though the company's own data showed that crushing the pills could result in substance abuse.

Unsurprisingly, Purdue denied the lawsuit's claims. But that didn't stop Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway from moving forward with the case. "I want to hold them accountable in eastern Kentucky for what they did," Conway said at the time. "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."

- read the New Hampshire Attorney General's statement

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