OxyContin Lawsuits

In January, a Maine man who had filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma L.P. because he said he had become addicted to OxyContin withdrew his lawsuit. In December 2001, a North Carolina man who said he had gone through severe pain and other withdrawal symptoms after his physicians took him off OxyContin also withdrew his lawsuit.

In Febuary of 2002 several lawsuits were filed holding the makers of OxyContin responsible for people's addiction to the painkiller and a third complaint asking the court to restrict access to the drug. All were dismissed.

A plaintiffs group in Washington, D.C., has filed a $5.2 billion lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP and Abbott Laboratories Inc. charging the drug companies with allegedly failing to warn patients the painkiller OxyContin is dangerously addictive.

The suit was filed by seven people who are former addicts or relatives of addicts, the suit charges the companies with aggressively marketing the drug without warning of the risks. The plaintiffs are also seeking class action status.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue manufactures OxyContin, while Abbott co-markets the drug, a painkiller intended for use by terminal cancer patients and chronic pain sufferers. Allegations have surfaced that the drug has been linked to numerous deaths.

Purdue in May said it had met with officials from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration because of the agency's concerns about its illegal diversion and abuse. Purdue Pharma around the same time said it tried to reduce abuse of the prescription drug through several actions including halting distribution of the drug in 160 mg tablets, its highest-strength dosage.

According to the lawsuit, defendants "made misrepresentations or failed to adequately and sufficiently warn individuals regarding the appropriate uses, risks and safety of OxyContin." It contends OxyContin's sales, which exceeded $1 billion in the United States in 2000, were the result of an "aggressive marketing strategy" to physicians, pharmacists and patients that, "misrepresented the appropriate uses of OxyContin and failed to adequately disclose and discuss the safety issues and possible adverse effects of OxyContin use."

Specifically, the suit quotes a May 2000 U.S. Food and Drug Administration warning letter to Purdue Pharma ordering the company to cease use of an advertisement for the drug that appeared in a medical journal. The suit quotes a section from the warning letter that suggests the advertisement inaccurately represents the drug as a first-line treatment for osteoarthritis. "As a result of drug company defendants' inappropriate marketing of OxyContin, the drug has been inappropriately prescribed and used, unnecessarily putting people at risk of addiction to OxyContin," the suit alleges.