Mo. attorney general sues drug companies over opioids


Associated Press

ST. LOUIS

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley on Wednesday filed suit against three large pharmaceutical companies, saying their “campaign of fraud and deception” led to a startling opioid crisis in the state.

Hawley, a Republican, filed suit in St. Louis Circuit Court, naming Endo Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. Hawley said at a news conference that the suit will seek “hundreds of millions of dollars” in both damages and civil penalties.

Hawley said the three companies over several years misrepresented the addictive risks of opioids, often using fraudulent science to back their claims. As a result, thousands of Missourians dealing with chronic pain were given unnecessary opioid prescriptions.

“For years now, the citizens of Missouri have been the victims of a coordinated campaign of fraud and deception about the nature of drugs known as opioids,” Hawley said. The companies named in the suit “have profited from the suffering of Missourians,” he said.

Officials with Janssen and Purdue Pharma said in statements that their companies share concerns about the opioid crisis, but both denied wrongdoing. Janssen spokeswoman Jessica Castles Smith said the company “has acted appropriately, responsibly and in the best interests of patients regarding our opioid pain medications ...” Purdue Pharma said the company “vigorously” denied the allegations in the lawsuit and is an industry leader in developing “abuse-deterrent technology.”

Messages seeking comment from Endo Pharmaceuticals were not immediately returned.

Two other states have filed similar lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies: Mississippi in 2015 and Ohio in May.

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