MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The State of Alabama has filed a federal lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, one of the nation's largest manufacturers of prescription opioid pain medications.
The suit accuses Purdue of violating Alabama's Deceptive Trade Practices Act in the marketing and sale of opioid drugs and, as a result, jeopardizing the public health, welfare and safety of Alabama's residents.
Purdue makes OxyContin, MS Contin, Dilaudid/Dilaudid HP, Butrans, Hysingla ER, and Targiniq ER, as well as generic opioids.
"The opioid epidemic has devastated Alabama families, leaving a trail of addiction and death winding through every community of this state," Alabama Attorney General Marshall said. "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. Alabama's drug overdose death rate skyrocketed by 82 percent from 2006 to 2014 and it is believed that many of those deaths were from opioid painkillers and heroin."
The state has retained two law firms, Montgomery-based Beasley Allen and Tuscaloosa-based Prince, Glover & Hayes to prosecute the state's claims, both of which will work under the supervision of attorneys with the AG's office.
"Alabama's opioid crisis has been, and is still being, fueled by pharmaceutical manufacturer Purdue, which has deceptively and illegally marketed opioids in order to generate billions of dollars in sales," Beasley Allen attorney Rhon E. Jones said. "Purdue primarily manufactures and sells opioids, and is misrepresenting the risks of these highly addictive painkillers, plainly putting profits over people. The rampant use and abuse of opioids is devastating to both the citizens of and the State of Alabama."
"Alabamians are struggling with a pernicious, ever-expanding epidemic of opioid addiction and abuse and the wrongdoers must be held accountable," Prince, Glover & Hayes said in a statement. "The firm is deeply honored to have been selected by Attorney General Marshall."
"It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens," Marshall added.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, seeks both monetary damages and injunctive relief. Marshall said he anticipates the suit will ultimately be transferred to Cleveland, Ohio "as part of the national multi-district litigation."
A Purdue Pharma spokesman told the Associated Press the company denies the allegations and is dedicated to being part of the solution.