Opioid Maker Purdue Asks Judge to Toss Massachusetts Drug Suit

(Bloomberg) -- Purdue Pharma LP says Massachusetts officials are falsely blaming the drug maker for creating the state’s opioid epidemic through the marketing of the painkiller Oxycontin.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is unfairly vilifying Purdue with “inflammatory’’ and “outrageous’’ claims, and her lawsuit should be tossed out, the company said in a court filing Monday. Purdue urged the judge to dismiss the case, saying that Healey’s allegation of an illegal marketing campaign for Oxycontin won’t hold up.

The lawsuit is an example of “oversimplified scapegoating based on a distorted account of the facts unsupported by applicable law,’’ Purdue said in the filing.

Jillian Fennimore, a spokeswoman for Healey, said the attorney general intends to oppose Purdue’s motion.

Healey originally sued Purdue last year, along with executives and members of the Sackler family that own the company. An unsealed version of the suit showed members of the family deeply involved in efforts to expand the drug’s sales.

Richard Sackler, who once served as the privately held firm’s president and chairman, embraced a plan to conceal how powerful Oxycontin was in order to boost sales, according to an unsealed deposition. Other filings show the family made more than $4 billion off Oxycontin sales between 2008 and 2015.

Massachusetts is just one of 36 states that have sued Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors who are accused of understating the risks of prescription opioids, overstating their benefits and failing to halt suspiciously large shipments to pharmacies. The companies also face suits from more than 1,500 U.S. cities and counties.

In its dismissal motion, Purdue lawyers note most overdose deaths in Massachusetts are tied to heroin, not prescription drugs, and state officials have noted in the past that most Oxycontin abusers began their addiction problems with alcohol and marijuana.

The state’s suit ignores the idea “the opioid-abuse crisis is a complex, multi-factorial societal issue’’ that can’t be blamed on drug makers alone, Purdue’s lawyers noted in the filing.

The case is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts v. Purdue Pharma LP, 1884-cv-01808, Suffolk County Superior Court (Boston).

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