California Sues: Big Pharma Created Addicts With Lies

Lawsuit alleges slick marketing got people hooked on opioid painkillers

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2014 3:25 AM CDT

(Newser) – The makers of strong painkillers like OxyContin have created a "population of addicts" with a "campaign of deception" about the risks the drugs carry, two California counties charge in a lawsuit filed on behalf of the whole state. Orange and Santa Clara counties are suing five large makers of opium-like painkillers, accusing them of using false advertising and misleading practices, reports the Los Angeles Times. The counties say the drug makers caused an epidemic of addiction and overdoses by marketing drugs meant for short-term pain relief to people suffering chronic pain, and used methods similar to those of tobacco companies to "conceal their deceptive marketing and conspiratorial behavior."

The lawsuit seeks compensation for damage caused by the drugs and a court order forcing to companies to give up revenue based on allegedly misleading ad campaigns. The main goal is "to stop the lies about what these drugs do," says the district attorney in Orange County, where there is a painkiller-releated death every other day, according to the lawsuit. "It’s always been my opinion that Big Pharma is the head of the snake," a father whose son died from an overdose tells the OC Register. "They flood the market with a very powerful opiate that shouldn't be prescribed but for a very small portion of patients. The whole organization is designed for profit, not for healing."

OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.
OxyContin pills are arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
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What we’re after is to make these companies stop the practice of false advertising and false claims that these drugs are benign. - Orange County DA Tony Rackauckas

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