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New Hampshire sues Purdue Pharma over deceptive marketing of opioids

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New Hampshire sues Purdue Pharma over deceptive marketing of opioids

New Hampshire filed a civil lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP for misrepresenting the risks of opioid painkillers like OxyContin.

The complaint filed in the Merrimack County Superior Court alleges that the company significantly downplayed the risk of addiction posed by OxyContin and other products, and engaged in unfair or deceptive marketing practices.

New Hampshire claims the company's sales representatives made personal sales call to more prescribers in the state than any other maker of branded opioids.

In addition, Purdue failed to report illicit or suspicious prescribing of opioids to authorities, even as it promoted its "constructive role in the fight against opioid abuse" and "strong record of coordination with law enforcement," according to the complaint.

The company only provided the Board of Medicine with a list of suspicious prescribers upon request. However, the complaint alleges that all the names on the list were added on the basis of the board's investigations or media reports, and none from Purdue's own knowledge from its sales data or doctor visits.

Purdue launched a reformulated OxyContin in 2010 to make it more resistant to being abused. The complaint states that the company seized on abuse-deterrence as a marketing advantage and suggested to doctors that their abuse deterrence properties made the drug less addictive. It also falsely assured prescribers that the opioid was nearly impossible to abuse despite knowing that it could be easily manipulated to be abused.

The state also claims that the drugmaker aggressively marketed its drugs as safe for chronic pain management and failed to disclose that there is no credible scientific evidence that opioids are safe or effective for chronic pain, and misrepresented the drugs' risks and benefits, including the risk of addiction.

Purdue also allegedly told prescribers that patients who seemed to be seeking or abusing opioids were only experiencing "pseudoaddiction."

In 2007, Purdue and three of its executives pleaded guilty to federal charges and reached a multistate settlement with 26 states, not including New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia, paying $735 million in total.

Purdue denied the allegations but said that it shares New Hampshire officials' concerns about the opioid crisis and is committed to working collaboratively to find solutions, Reuters reported Aug. 8, citing a company statement.

New Hampshire's complaint follows similar lawsuits brought by Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri, as well as several cities and counties. A group of state attorneys general is also investigating the marketing and sales practices of opioid makers in an effort to combat the opioid crisis.