Justice: Opioid maker targets seniors


By Molly Harbarger

The Oregonian

Opioid powerhouse Purdue Pharma lied to the Oregon State Board of Pharmacy and targeted senior citizens, claims a lawsuit filed Thursday by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.

Rosenblum’s office filed a notice June 27 in a first step toward suing the OxyContin manufacturer over what the state says are 10 years of violations of a state settlement. The notice demanded Purdue abide by the terms of a 2007 settlement or Oregon would sue.

The state asked for more than $1 million and a prohibition against Purdue marketing opioids toward senior citizens in Oregon. The lawsuit claims the company distributed publications and partnered with industry-funded advocacy organizations in Oregon with untrue and misleading claims, trained its sales force to minimize the harms of OxyContin, and targeted senior citizens and people with disabilities.

“Ten years later, it is clear Purdue has flouted the judgment and ignored the severe federal penalties,” the lawsuit says.

Oregon is part of coordinated efforts across states to hold opioid companies accountable and recoup some money to pay for addiction treatment. This latest lawsuit, though, is not part of that effort.

Oregon is possibly the first state to cite the Elderly Persons and Persons with Disabilities Abuse Prevention Act to say Purdue targeted senior citizens. The evidence includes The Oregonian/OregonLive’s reporting that in 2015, for every 100,000 seniors in Oregon nearly 700 people 65 and older were sent to the hospital because of opioids.

The suit says opioids can increase the risk of falls, fractures and deaths in older people. It claims the company targeted long-term care facilities and urged doctors to prescribe opioids at higher dosages than was safe for people older than 65.

The lawsuit claims that every year when Purdue renewed its application to sell OxyContin in Oregon with the state pharmacy board, it lied about whether it had been subject to state and federal punishment.

Purdue has had to pay fines, and high-level executives have been charged with felonies for how the company marketed and sold OxyContin.

Most states recognize the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis. Gov. Kate Brown signed an executive order earlier this year calling it a state priority.

The Oregon Department of Justice has released nearly $4 million from settlements to fight the opioid epidemic, including $760,000 to Oregon Health & Science University announced Thursday to fund a library of evidence-based practices to prevent and treat opioid abuse.

This lawsuit occurs as Oregon opioid-related deaths begin to spike. Public health officials reported earlier this year that it appears fentanyl — a strong opioid that is common among people who can no longer access prescribed opioids — has moved into the state. Jackson County saw a 70 percent increase in opioid overdose deaths in the first quarter of the year.

Source : http://www.bendbulletin.com/nation/6519304-151/justice-opioid-maker-targets-seniors