Morrisey sues two opioid manufacturers
CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed suit Tuesday against two major opioid painkiller manufacturers, continuing the office’s battle against those who helped fuel the state’s deadly drug epidemic.
The lawsuits allege Endo Health Solutions Inc., Mallinckrodt LLC and various subsidiaries contributed to the opioid crisis by individually engaging in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks and benefits of opioid painkillers.
“We must hold everyone in the pharmaceutical supply channel accountable,” Morrisey said. “We cannot let bad actors go unpunished. These alleged actions have caused widespread harm to our state and its citizens. We will not tolerate these practices, nor will we stand idly by as senseless death takes the lives of far too many West Virginians.”
The lawsuits, filed separately in Boone County Circuit Court, allege the defendants mischaracterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing inherently greater risks.
Specifically, the Attorney General alleges Endo rebranded its widely abused drug from the 1960s to keep up with competition decades later. The effort included a new name, Opana, and a new color to minimize memory of a reputation tarnished by widespread abuse and diversion.
The Endo lawsuit also alleges the company misrepresented a later version of Opana ER as tamper resistant.
Similarly, the Mallinckrodt lawsuit alleges its executives ignored warnings of abuse. It cites one email in which a distributor jokes that consumers are addicted to its product, to which a Mallinckrodt executive compared opioids to chips in replying, “Keep eating. We’ll make more.”
The Mallinckrodt lawsuit cites another email alleging the company used a reggae song to train its sales team to push doctors to prescribe stronger doses of opioids. The email, which wished its recipients “happy listening and good selling,” was not to be shared with customers or others outside the team.
Both lawsuits allege the manufacturers’ conduct and campaign of misrepresentations led to opioids becoming a common treatment for chronic pain in West Virginia, a reality that fueled substance abuse and the state’s skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths.
The Attorney General alleges their conduct violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.
This week’s civil complaints follow lawsuits filed earlier this year against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Endo is joined by co-defendant subsidiaries Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Par Pharmaceuticals Inc., while the Mallinckrodt lawsuit lists subsidiary SpecGx LLC as an additional defendant.