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New Hampshire Sues OxyContin Maker for Its Role in Opioid Epidemic

New Hampshire’s attorney general’s office has sued Purdue Pharma over its alleged deceptive marketing that has contributed to the state’s opioid crisis.

New Hampshire has filed a civil complaint against the manufacturer of OxyContin, alleging that the company has utilized deceptive marketing strategies that have contributed to the state’s devastating opioid crisis. With a population of 1.3 million, New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of opioid prescribing and addiction in the U.S. Nearly 500 people died of overdoses in 2016, a near 10 times increase from 2000.

“To defeat the epidemic, we must stop creating new users, and part of that is making sure these highly addictive and dangerous drugs are marketed truthfully and without deception and in such a way as to not minimize addiction risks or overstate benefits to patients,” said Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice.

In a nearly 100-page lawsuit filed last week, New Hampshire’s attorney general’s office claimed that Purdue Pharma has downplayed the addiction and abuse risks of OxyContin and overstated the drugs effectiveness.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jim Boffetti said that a two-year investigation into the company’s marketing practices revealed that representatives from Purdue Pharma had met and spoke with local doctors as often as two or three times a week.

“One doctor told us the message that she got was these drugs were safe, safe, safe, safe for long term use,” Boffetti said.

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Three executives of Purdue Pharma in 2007 pleaded guilty to criminal charges for deceptive conduct and agreed to pay a collective $634.5 million to resolve a U.S. Justice Department probe. The New Hampshire lawsuit alleges that the company has continued to implement the same practices.

“The role that drug makers have played in contributing to the heroin, fentanyl, and opioid crisis that is devastating communities in New Hampshire and states across the country is abundantly clear,” said New Hampshire Sen. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat. “Through improper marketing of prescription opioids, drug makers have long been running a campaign of deception to mask how addictive these products really are.”

In a statement, Purdue Pharma denied the allegations and claimed to be committed to assisting with the management of the opioid crisis.

“OxyContin accounts for less than 2% of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone – all important components for combating the opioid crisis,” said Robert Josephson, spokesman for Purdue Pharma.

The White House Commission on Combating Drug Addition and the Opioid Crisis published a preliminary report earlier this month, urging Donald Trump to declare a national emergency. In the U.S., more than 1,000 people are treated in emergency departments every day for not using prescription opioids as directed. The report also advocated for the development of non-opioid pain relievers.

New Hampshire expanded its medical marijuana law earlier this summer to add chronic pain and other disorders as qualifying conditions. Lawmaker Eric Schleien (R-Hudson) sponsored the bill in an effort to encourage patients to use cannabis rather than opioids for pain management. He cited evidence indicating that doctors prescribe fewer opioids in states where medical cannabis is an option for pain. Under the law, patients diagnosed with moderate to severe chronic pain were able to begin obtaining legal medical marijuana as of August 15. A recent study found that 92 percent of pain patients prefer cannabis to opioids.

Learn what research has discovered on cannabis and pain by visiting our education page.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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