The Opioid Epidemic in Wisconsin: A Look at Purdue Pharmaceuticals

Countless people across the nation are feeling the sting of the opioid crisis, and many blame big pharmaceutical companies for the rising problem. Whether individuals are suffering from an addiction themselves or are coping with the addiction of a loved one, those affected are increasing in number as this epidemic continues to spiral out of control. Opioids are powerful painkillers with addictive qualities, and while some opioids are illegal, others can be easily obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

Discussion of the opioid epidemic has focused heavily on the responsibility of doctors and drug manufacturers for a while now, and just recently they’ve starting to have a big impact. Purdue Pharmaceuticals, a major medicinal company and manufacturer of the popular opioid OxyContin, recently announced that it will stop marketing to doctors. This move can have a huge impact on the current state of the opioid crisis, and may set a precedent for other big opioid manufacturers.

Casey Law Offices, S.C. Represents Those Harmed By the Opioid Epidemic

At Casey Law Offices, S.C., our Wisconsin personal injury attorney is passionate about helping the injured fight for justice and fair compensation. The opioid epidemic led to roughly 64,000 deaths last year, and countless more have become addicted to dangerous painkillers and illegal substances as a result. Doctors understand the addictive qualities of these drugs, yet some continue to prescribe them carelessly, even failing to recognize the signs of addiction in their patients and renewing prescriptions at a dangerous frequency. Drug manufacturers are also well aware of the impact of their drugs, yet many continue to sell dangerous and addictive products. If someone you love was harmed due to the negligence of a doctor or other pharmaceutical company, our firm wants to join in your fight for justice.

In our recent blog series, The Opioid Epidemic in Wisconsin, we discuss the national crisis plaguing our nation and how pharmaceutical companies are playing a huge role in its growth. If you or someone you love has been affected by opioids, make sure you understand the depth of the epidemic and find out how a strong legal advocate could help you.

Pressured by Lawsuits, Purdue Stops Marketing OxyContin to Doctors

There is good news in the fight against opioid abuse: Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the powerful and popular painkiller OxyContin, announced that it will stop marketing opioid drugs to doctors. It seems the lawsuits filed by Ohio’s Attorney General, which blame the makers and distributors of opioid painkillers for contributing to the drug abuse epidemic, caused the pressure they intended.  

In a surprising statement, Purdue said it eliminated more than half of its sales staff in February and will no longer send sales representatives to doctors’ offices to discuss opioid drugs. The company’s remaining sales staff, about 200 employees, will focus on other medications.

OxyContin has been the world’s top-selling opioid painkiller for an extensive period of time, bringing in billions of dollars in sales for privately-held Purdue. Many are hoping Purdue’s decision to refocus their marketing will push other opioid manufacturers to make similar moves.

The Ohio Attorney General filed the lawsuit against Purdue, and 4 other opioid drug makers, just last May. The lawsuit claimed the companies’ marketing campaigns “…trivialize[d] the risks of opioids while overstating the benefits” of their effectiveness at treating chronic pain. The lawsuit also alleged that these fraudulent marketing techniques fueled Ohio’s opioid epidemic by minimizing the serious risk these painkillers pose.

Purdue’s Previous Legal Problems with Opioids

This incident was not the first time Purdue Pharmaceuticals has been taken to court. In 2007, Purdue marketed OxyContin as a “12-hour pain reliever,” which helped make it the best-selling opioid painkiller in American earned the company a $31 billion profit that year. However, in reality, the painkiller wore off much sooner than the alleged 12 hours, causing patients to have withdrawal symptoms and drug cravings. The lawsuit claimed that Purdue knew the 12-hour claim was false, yet it continued with the faulty marketing campaign.

To combat the known addiction issues, doctors began prescribing OxyContin for shorter periods of time, but Purdue, in turn, recommended stronger doses. This caused patients to try to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms by taking additional doses of the drug, often leading to serious issues with addiction and drug dependence.

To reach a settlement, Purdue agreed to pay roughly $600 million in fines and other fees, resulting in one of the largest legal payments by a medicinal company. In addition, 3 company executives, including Purdue’s president, pleaded guilty to criminal charges. In their plea, the executives admitted that they misled regulators, doctors, and patients regarding the drug’s risk of addiction.

Other Drug-Makers are Under Pressure

Purdue isn’t the only company feeling pressure regarding the opioid epidemic. A sizeable number of pharmaceutical companies are being forced to explain their role in the crisis before various courts throughout the United States. In an effort to ensure these companies shoulder some of the blame and public costs of the damages wreaked by opioids, dozens of state and local governments throughout the country have filed lawsuits.

Lawsuits have been filed against the following pharmaceutical companies and drug distributors in relation to the opioid crisis:

  • Johnson & Johnson
  • Allergan
  • Teva
  • Walgreens
  • CVS
  • Cardinal Health
  • McKesson Corporation

Many of these lawsuits argue that drug-makers used aggressive sales tactics to boost revenues while also downplaying their risks. Additionally, the pharmacy chains and wholesalers listed above have been accused of violating the Federal Controlled Substances Act by failing to alert the US Drug Enforcement Administration of suspicious opioid purchases. For example, some of these companies sold large quantities of pills that were diverted to the black market.

There is a lot of legal work ahead for the lawyers on both sides of the opioid crisis, but the pivotal Purdue marketing decision is encouraging, to say the least.

If either you or a family member has suffered from an opioid addiction or overdose, we encourage you to contact our offices at 414.272.3776 today. Or, contact Casey Law Offices, S.C. to request a free consultation with our Wisconsin attorney.

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