After initially showing some hesitation, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has joined other states in filing suit against Purdue Pharma, L.P., which manufactured one of the first and most widely-abused prescription opiates, OxyContin.
The company and its subsidiaries also manufacturer and sell other pain medications like MS Contin, Dilaudid, Butrans, Hysingla ER, Targiniq ER and several generic opioids as well.
Marshall’s complaint on behalf of the citizens of Alabama contends that Purdue violated the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act in the marketing and sale of opioid drugs and, in so doing, jeopardized public health and welfare, as well as the safety of Alabama residents.
Alabama will be seeking both monetary damages and injunctive relief and will be joining other states, cities and hospital groups from around the United States in targeting the manufacturers of the prescription drugs that have become the root of the ongoing opioid crisis.
The decision to get involved was somewhat of a shift for Marshall, who told a group in Mobile last year his office had refrained from using “civil litigation to regulate industries or to coerce windfall settlements.”
At the time, Marshall said he wasn’t sure states filing suit against opioid manufacturers was “the right way to go.”
Since then, Marshall has joined a multi-state investigation of the business practices of certain pharmaceutical manufacturers pushed by a coalition of attorneys general from around the country. He’s also served on an opioid council created by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey that released a list of recommendations late last year.
“The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding though every community of this state,” Marshall wrote in a press release announcing the lawsuit. “Alabama ranks first in the nation for the number of painkiller prescriptions per capita. As a result, it is estimated that almost 30,000 of our residents over age 17 are dependent upon heroin and prescription painkillers.”
Marshall said he anticipates the state’s suit will be transferred to Cleveland as part of a national multi-district litigation that already includes similar suits filed by the City of Mobile, Mobile County and a group of Gulf Coast hospitals that includes Mobile Infirmary.
Marshall said he attended a court-ordered settlement conference in Cleveland last month. While the state will be contracting with two private law firms to pursue the litigation, they will work under the supervision of attorneys from the AG’s office.