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Texas files lawsuit against maker of OxyContin over opioid epidemic

Texas is joining five other states in filing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma claiming it contributes to the opioid crisis.

"My office is holding Purdue Pharma accountable for fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic by deceptive marketing of its prescription opioid painkillers, including OxyContin," Paxton said during a press conference Tuesday.

The lawsuit alleges Purdue misrepresented or failed to disclose the risk of addiction to opioids; falsely represented that doctors and patients could increase opioid dosages indefinitely without risk and misled doctors to believe that common signs of addictions in patients are actually signs that the patient needs a higher dose of opioid.

"Lying about the true nature of a dangerous drug is unconscionable and illegal," Paxton said. "It represents a callous disregard for human life that Texans simply cannot and will not tolerate. As Purdue enriched itself on opioid sales, worth billions of dollars annually, Texans and others across the nation have paid a heavy price."

In September 2017, Paxton announced Texas was joining a bipartisan coalition of 40 other states and served investigative subpoenas on eight companies that manufacture or distribute addictive painkillers. It included a supplemental investigative subpoena on Purdue Pharma.

This February, Paxton joined U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and other attorney generals from across the country to discuss federal action against opioid manufacturers.

In an emailed response, Purdue Pharma said it denies these allegations and looks forward to presenting its defense.

"We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help the state of Texas address the opioid crisis, the attorney general has unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process," the statement said.

The state hasn’t identified the total amount it is seeking from Purdue Pharma, but it’s asking the court to order the company to pay up to $20,000 for each deceptive trade practice violation.

Paxton says that amount will be determined once his office finishes looking over evidence.

Texas lawmakers have been meeting ahead of the 2019 legislative session to continue evaluating other approaches in fighting the opioid crisis and held a committee meeting at the state capitol the same day as Paxton’s lawsuit announcement.  

Anesthesiologist Dr. Carlos "Nick" Lee explained to legislators how more doctors are trying to strike a balance when managing a patient’s pain, but it’s often difficult.

"We’ve identified that because of quality scores, there are physicians that will overprescribe," Lee said. "They have good intents, but they will overprescribe."

Lee said doctors are looking for other treatment options as well.

"Is there something better we can do in terms of physical therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy just to make sure we’re hitting all the checkboxes?" he said.


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