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New York Joins List of States Suing Sackler Family Over Opioids

It’s one of the many states that has filed suit against drug companies following the opioid epidemic

OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Nearly a third of the members on a government panel that made headlines by calling an effort to curb overprescribing of OxyContin and other painkillers "horrible," have drug-industry ties. The Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee is a government advisory panel of federal scientists, outside academics and patient representatives. Of the 18 committee members at a recent meeting to discuss government handling of pain issues, at least five had financial connections to painkiller manufacturersPainkiller Panel-Drugmaker Ties, Montpelier, USA

New York has sued the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, for allegedly deliberately ignoring the risks of opioids.

Toby Talbot/AP/REX/Shutterstock

New York has joined the growing list of states suing the Sackler family, the owners of the company Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the Associated Press reports.

On Thursday, the state attorney general amended a lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals to include the Sacklers, as well as five other opioid manufacturers such as Johnson and Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and four drug distributors. It seeks up to tens of millions of dollars in damages for the money the state has spent on curbing the crisis and a fund to curb the opioid epidemic in New York state.

The suit accuses opioid manufacturers of prioritizing profit over patients’ welfare and encouraging doctors to increase prescription doses, despite knowing the risks associated with opioid addiction. It also accuses drug manufacturers of “falsely deny[ing] the serious risks of opioid addiction generally, and high-dose opioid prescriptions specifically” in order to maximize profits.

“New York State is in the throes of an opioid epidemic that has ravaged the lives of its residents and drained its public coffers for more than two decades,” the suit reads. “This statewide catastrophe happened because the Defendants in this case — the drug manufacturers and distributors entrusted under New York law with critical roles in preventing the misuse and diversion of controlled substances — deliberately betrayed those duties through a persistent course of fraudulent and illegal misconduct.”

New York is one of nearly three dozen states that have filed suit against pharmaceutical companies for helping to perpetuate and profiting off of the opioid crisis. Earlier this week, Purdue and the state of Oklahoma reached a historic settlement, with Purdue agreeing to pay the state $270 million to avoid going to trial. The onslaught of lawsuits has prompted Purdue to explore filing for bankruptcy, according to Reuters.

Purdue and the Sacklers have denied the allegations. “Expanding this baseless lawsuit to include former directors of Purdue Pharma is a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them.”

The opioid crisis has hit New York state hard: between 2012 and 2016, the rate of heroin-related deaths in New York nearly doubled, while deaths related to synthetic opioids like fentanyl have increased tenfold, according to data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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