State of Wyoming Announces Lawsuit against Opioid Manufacturer

WAG  10-20-18

The Wyoming Attorney General’s Office today sued Purdue Pharma for unfairly and deceptively marketing and promoting opioids in Wyoming. The lawsuit follows Wyoming’s participation in an extensive multistate investigation into what role opioid manufacturers and distributors played in creating or prolonging the opioid crisis. Wyoming’s participation in that multistate effort continues.

“While today Wyoming filed suit against Purdue only, my office continues to actively investigate other opioid manufacturers and distributors while monitoring settlement discussion between these companies and the multistate coalition of attorneys general. As shown by today’s action, we will not hesitate to enforce against other opioid manufacturers and distributors that have violated Wyoming’s laws,” stated Attorney General Michael.

The over 100-page complaint filed in Laramie County District Court details how Purdue changed traditional attitudes about limiting opioid use through a multi-faceted promotional campaign that misrepresented the safety and benefits of opioids.

“Opioids have a traditional place in medicine. They can assist those suffering from cancer-related pain, end-of-life pain, and severe, short term pain. But Purdue deceptively promoted opioids for many more types of pain, even when the serious risks of opioids outweighed their benefits,” commented Attorney General Michael.

The complaint alleges that this increased opioid use had consequences. For instance, admission in Wyoming drug treatment programs for opiate addictions have increased five-fold between 2005 and 2017. Opioid poisoning deaths have also increased in Wyoming since 2005.
The complaint, filed by the Consumer Protection and Medicaid Fraud Units, alleges that Purdue convinced Wyoming providers to prescribe opioids to more Wyomingites, at higher doses, and for longer periods of time by:
 Overstating the benefits of chronic opioid treatment while downplaying its serious risks;
 Misrepresenting the addiction risks and abuse potential of its opioids;
 Overstating the ability of providers to effectively manage the risks of addiction and abuse
through screening tools and patient management strategies;
 Falsely claiming that its opioids were superior to other pain treatment options;
 Targeting vulnerable populations like opioid naïve patients, the elderly, and veterans;
 Treating signs of addiction as under-treated pain that requires even more opioids;
 Falsely claiming that its opioids have no dose ceiling;
 Promoting OxyContin as providing a full 12 hours of pain relief, which it does not
consistently provide;
 Misrepresenting the ability of long-term opioid therapy to improve a patient’s functionality
and quality of life; and
 Encouraging higher doses of opioids without disclosing the greater risks of these higher
doses.

According to the lawsuit, these actions violate the Consumer Protection and Medicaid False Claims
Acts. Wyoming seeks civil penalties, damages, and permanent injunctive relief halting Purdue’s
unlawful promotion of opioids in all parts of the state.

A copy of the complaint is available here.

Today’s action received the support of Teton, Albany, and Goshen Counties. These three counties
previously entered into memoranda of understanding with the Attorney General, agreeing to
contribute to the statewide investigation.

“I wish to recognize the support of Teton, Albany, and Goshen Counties. In a state of our
population size, we must address the opioid crisis through a united front with the support of all
levels of state and local government,” remarked Attorney General Michael. “Together, we will hold
opioid companies accountable for their role in Wyoming’s opioid crisis.”

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