New Hampshire sues drug company for misleading marketing

The state of New Hampshire sued Purdue Pharma for deceptive marketing of OxyContin on Tuesday. Many local governments have filed similar suits against drug companies this year.

New Hampshire has sued one of the nation's largest pharmaceutical companies for deceptive marketing of a highly addictive prescription opioid.

The state, which the USDA called the 'ground zero' of the opioid crisis, said Purdue Pharma's advertising of OxyContin was misleading in a civil complaint filed Tuesday.

The complaint also accused the New Jersey-based company of downplaying the drug's risk of addiction, overstating its effectiveness, saying the drug is almost impossible to abuse and failing to report suspicious prescribers.

This is the latest in a string of lawsuits that state and local governments have brought against pharmaceutical companies this year as the opioid epidemic continues to ravage the US.

New Hampshire sued Purdue Pharma on Tuesday. In a civil complaint it said the New Jersey-based company downplayed OxyContin's risk of addiction and overstated its effectiveness (file photo)

New Hampshire sued Purdue Pharma on Tuesday. In a civil complaint it said the New Jersey-based company downplayed OxyContin's risk of addiction and overstated its effectiveness (file photo)

In 2007 Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges for deceptive conduct. But the suit filed Tuesday said the company is continuing those same practices.

A Purdue spokesman said the company denies the allegations but it shares concerns about the growing opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

This summer, a host of state governments have sued pharmaceutical companies for deceptive marketing, attempting to hold them accountable for their part in the opioid crisis, which is getting worse.

Missouri sued Purdue and two other drug companies less than two months ago and Ohio sued five in May.

In Tennessee, the guardians of a baby born dependent on drugs sued three companies in June.

HOW AMERICA'S OPIOID CRISIS IS MAKING MORE BABIES ADDICTED TO DRUGS

Babies born dependent on drugs suffer from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Symptoms include problems with their gastrointestinal tract and an irritable central nervous system.

As the opioid crisis in the U.S. grows, the number of newborns with NAS continues to jump.

The number of babies with NAS increased 300 percent in 28 states between 1999 and 2013, according to the CDC.

The problem is particularly prevalent in West Virginia where about one in 10 babies born in the state's main hospital are born addicted to opioids - 13 times the national rate.

Overdoses killed 59,000-65,000 Americans under 50 last year, making them the leading cause of death among young Americans, the New York Times reported.

That is a higher annual death rate than ever seen from HIV or gun violence.

The 2016 rate was up from 52,404 in 2015 and was double the rate a decade ago.

West Virginia has by far the highest rate of death from opioid overdoses in the country: 41.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015, a jump of nearly 17 from the prior year.

Drug companies over six years shipped 780 million prescription pain pills to West Virginia, a state of less than two million, and half of those came from the three largest US drug companies: McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen.

New Hampshire trailed West Virginia with 34.3 deaths per 100,000 population but saw the biggest increase from the prior year, when the rate was 26.2.

America's most populous state, California, had the largest total number of overdose deaths at 4,659 in 2015, followed by Ohio with 3,310, which like West Virginia has been hard hit by the epidemic.

New Hampshire Senator Maggie Hassan blamed drug makers for their role in 'devastating' communities in her state.

She said their contribution to the crisis is 'abundantly clear'.

'Through improper marketing of prescription opioids, drug makers have long been running a campaign of deception to mask how addictive these products really are.'

Senator Hassan said even though drug companies are fined 'these issues continue to persist and it is time for real change to reverse the tide of this horrific epidemic that stems in large part from the misuse and abuse of prescription opioids.'

Data from the Times shows drug overdose deaths surged 19 percent to at least 59,000 in 2016

Data from the Times shows drug overdose deaths surged 19 percent to at least 59,000 in 2016

New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Ann Rice emphasized how deceptive drug companies' marketing efforts are.

'To defeat the epidemic we must stop creating new users and part of that is making sure these highly addictive and dangerous drugs are marketed truthfully and without deception and in such a way as not to minimize addiction risks or overstate benefits to patients,' she said.

Purdue Pharma spokesman Robert Josephson downplayed his company's role in the crisis.

He said: 'We are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology.'

Eighty percent of people addicted to heroin start out using prescription drugs.

Sales of prescription opioids in the United States have quadrupled since 1999.