Massachusetts Sues 16 Purdue Board Members

    Purdue Pharmaceuticals in Stamford, Conn. is shown Tuesday, May 8, 2007. The drug maker has agreed to pay 19.5 million in a settlement with 26 states and the District of Columbia to settle complaints about the promotion of the drug OxyContin. (AP Photo/Douglas Healey).

    Massachusetts is suing 16 former and current Purdue Pharma board members and executives for their alleged role in the continuing opioid epidemic.

    The Attorney General for Massachusetts, Maura Healey, says this is first lawsuit from a state that directly involves and names the executives for their role in the problem.

    The non-executive director of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Judy Lewent, is named in the indictment for her involvement with the Purdue board until 2014.

    GlaxoSmithKline is one of the six largest pharmaceutical companies in the United Kingdom. They promoted guilty to promotion of drugs for unapproved uses in 2012, with a failure to report data on safety and kickbacks to doctors in the United States.

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    GSK was sentenced to pay a $3 billion settlement, at the time the largest ever for a drug company.

    Sixteen people are named in the Massachusetts lawsuit, including members of the Sackler family, the descendants of Raymond and Mortimer Sackler who earned their fortune largely on sale of the opioid OxyContin. Purdue Pharma still produces the harmful and addictive drug.

    The lawsuit claims that Purdue created the opioid crisis and “profited from it through a web of illegal deceit.”

    Lewent was mentioned as the one who “oversaw and engaged in a deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids in Massachusetts.”

    Attorney General Healey addressed the lawsuit in a press conference. She said that they found Purdue misled doctors, patients, and the public about the risks of opioids.

    “Their strategy was simple,” she said, “the more drugs they sold, the more money they made–and more people died.”

    Purdue “vigorously” denied the allegations while GSK declined to comment, saying that it is the legal matters of another company.

    Minnesota also recently filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma for marketing OxyContin.

    Purdue has stopped the marketing of opioids in Canada. They already stopped the marketing of these drugs in the United States in February. Canada has asked drug companies to suspend marketing and advertising of opioids.