Attorney General files charges against opioid manufacturers

Posted at 3:30 PM, May 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-30 08:39:12-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — State charges have been filed by the Maryland Attorney General against major pharmaceutical manufactures, accusing the drug companies of engaging in “deceptive and unfair trade practices” in a scheme to market and distribute opioids.

Attorney General Brian Frosh specifically targeted Purdue Pharma L.P. and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, as well as related companies and corporate entities. The companies are accused of marketing opioids for uses that exceed medical need, which has lead to hundreds of thousands of Maryland becoming addicted to the prescription drugs, with many becoming sick, injured, jailed, or dying due to the pills.

Purdue Pharma manufacturers MS Continue Dilaudid, Butrans, Hysingla, and OxyContin, all well known, name-brand opioids. Rhodes makes generic versions of opioid medications. The statement of charges seeks an order restraining Purdue and Rhodes from continuing to violate the State’s Consumer Protection Act, with monetary penalties for each violation and the repayment of all revenue the companies took in from the “unlawful conduct,” a statement from Frosh’s office read.

Frosh’s office had previously filed charges against the Sackler family, who owned, directed and controlled Purdue and Rhodes. In those charges, the family is accused of conducting a marketing scheme meant to purposefully mislead healthcare providers by downplaying the risks of opioids, in particular the likelihood of addiction and abuse, and embellishing the drugs’ benefits.

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In particular, Frosh alleges the companies said that some of the signs being construed as potential addiction were actually “pseudo addiction,” which could be fixed with higher doses. The company is accused of ignoring warning signs of problematic prescribing, and of recruiting problem prescribers as speakers at events, paying them to promote the company’s opioids after becoming problem prescribers.

“The charges describe a pattern of deception designed to sell life-threatening medicines without regard to the risk posed to the patients who consumed them,” said Attorney General Frosh. “We allege that Purdue and its related entities inflicted devastating harm, and in many cases irreversible harm, on patients and their families.”

Opioid-related deaths in Maryland increased for the seventh-straight year in 2017, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health. The 2,009 deaths in 2017 represent an almost 300 percent increase since 2010. The department guesses these numbers may under count the total impact of the opioid problem as some opioid-abuse-related deaths may have gone unreported or ruled due to adjacent causes. Maryland ranks among the top five states in terms of death rates from opioids, a statement from Frosh’s office said. Though the final count is not yet completed for 2018, that year looks to be on a continuation of the upward trend of opioid deaths, with 1,648 people dying of such causes between January and September, nearly 150 more opioid-related deaths than the same time period the year prior.