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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING CONTINUES TO HOLD PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES ACCOUNTABLE FOR THEIR ROLE IN THE OPIOID CRISIS
~ Herring has taken action against numerous entities for the roles they played in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis that has taken thousands of lives in Virginia ~
RICHMOND(March 3, 2020) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring is highlighting the work that he and his team have done to hold pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis in Virginia and around the country. Attorney General Herring has filed suit against Purdue Pharma; the Sackler Family, owners of Purdue Pharma; and Teva/Cephalon for the roles that they played in creating the opioid epidemic. Additionally, Attorney General Herring reached a $1.6 billion global settlement with Mallinckrodt that came as part of a multistate investigation into opioid manufacturers and distributors.
"Time and again, opioid manufacturers and distributors put profits over human lives when making crucial decisions about their drugs,” said Attorney General Herring. "No amount of money can take back the pain and suffering families in Virginia and around the country have felt because of this epidemic, but these companies must pay for the devastation they have caused. I will continue to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis and bringing some small glimpse of justice to those families who have lost a loved one to opioids.”
The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic has been a top priority for Attorney General Herring. He and his team continue to attack the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcement, education, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth.
For nearly two and a half years, Attorney General Herring has been part of a bipartisan, multistate effort to investigate and hold opioid manufacturers and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
In June 2018, Attorney General Herring filed suit against Purdue Pharma accusing it of profiting from an opioid crisis that it helped create and prolong through a decades-long campaign of lies and misrepresentations. Attorney General Herring alleges in the lawsuit that Purdue made false claims about the purported safety, efficacy, and benefits of its opioids, including OxyContin, pumped tens of millions of pills and patches into Virginia, and reported billions in profits.
Attorney General Herring's suit alleges that Virginia's opioid crisis "is the direct and foreseeable result of a decades-long, complex, large-scale campaign of misrepresentations and deception.” At the heart of Purdue's unlawful scheme were lies that its opioids were safe, carried a low risk of addiction, and were more effective than other pain relievers. Purdue knew that all of these claims were false, yet it engaged in an elaborate scheme to push the lies through aggressive sales tactics, marketing, and seemingly independent patient advocacy organizations.
Additionally, in September 2018, Attorney General Herring released the unredacted complaint in his Purdue lawsuit that shed light on the sheer volume of prescription opioids the company pushed into Virginia. Between 2008 and 2017, Purdue pushed nearly 150 million opioid pills and patches into Virginia through their rigorous marketing and sales programs, filling nearly 2.2 million opioid prescriptions.
Attorney General Herring filed suit against members of the Sackler Family, owners of Purdue Pharma, for their role in creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis, and for fraudulently taking billions of dollars from Purdue Pharma in an attempt to put money beyond the reach of the Virginia and other parties who may be entitled to damages.
In September 2019, Attorney General Herring filed an amended complaint as part of his ongoing lawsuit against Purdue Pharma that specifically named Richard, Jonathan, Kathe, and Mortimer Sackler as defendants. The suit stated that, despite the fact that "the Sacklers were unquestionably on notice as to the risks associated with opioids and the prior problems with Purdue's opioid sales and marketing practices,” the family nevertheless "oversaw, directed, and were informed in great detail about Purdue's opioid sales and marketing, with Richard Sackler taking a particularly active and aggressive role in directing, controlling, and participating in those functions and activities.”
Attorney General Herring also added a new claim of "fraudulent conveyance” against the company and Richard, Jonathan, Kathe, and Mortimer Sackler. The complaint stated that between 2008 and 2018, the Sackler family transferred at least $4 billion from Purdue to themselves. The complaint also stated that "in authorizing these transfers, the Sacklers sought to drain Purdue of cash and to place these funds beyond the reach of Purdue's creditors and claimants to whom Purdue faced liabilities due to its deceptive and misleading opioid sales and marketing practices.” The complaint further stated that "the Sacklers authorized these transfers with fraudulent intent, for no consideration, and for the purpose of rendering the funds inaccessible to the Commonwealth and other parties with valid claims against Purdue.”
In October 2019, Attorney General Herring filed suit against opioid manufacturer Teva Pharmaceuticals, USA, Inc. and its predecessor Cephalon, Inc. for engaging in what he alleged was an unlawful, complex, decades-long campaign to boost sales of fentanyl – the most potent narcotic currently approved for human use—by marketing its rapid acting fentanyl drugs for unapproved and unsafe uses, and by knowingly and intentionally downplaying the risks of its drugs while overselling the benefits. Attorney General Herring's suit alleged that for twenty years Teva/Cephalon successfully but illegally used marketing and promotional efforts to transform these powerful, potentially dangerous fentanyl drugs into commonly prescribed drugs for non-cancer patients, helping to fuel the deadly opioid crisis and harming patients, families, and communities in Virginia and around the country. The lawsuit also contained previously unrevealed information that shows Teva/Cephalon engaged in a decades-long cover-up to hide and misrepresent clinical trial data so the company could overstate the benefits and effectiveness of the drugs while downplaying the dangers of abuse and misuse.
Last month, Attorney General Herring released the unredacted complaint in the Teva/Cephalon lawsuit that further revealed the extent to which Teva/Cephalon lied about the uses and risks of their fentanyl drugs to boost sales. The unredacted complaint showed how the companies took opioids the FDA had only approved for treating cancer patients' pain and aggressively marketed them for a wide variety of prohibited off-label uses and encouraged non-cancer treating doctors, a third of whom were primary care physicians, to misprescribe these powerful drugs; disclosed the FDA's previously unknown stern warnings about the drugs, which the companies subsequently ignored; and showed how the companies manipulated clinical trial data to hide what they knew about their drugs' addiction and overdose risks and how they exaggerated the drugs' overall efficacy and benefits.
Last week, Attorney General Herring announced a global settlement framework agreement between a bipartisan coalition of 40 state attorneys general and Mallinckrodt (MNK), its subsidiaries, and certain other affiliates. As part of the settlement, MNK has agreed to pay $1.6 billion in cash to a trust that will cover the costs of opioid addiction treatment and related efforts, with the potential for increased payment to the trust. MNK also agreed that its future generics opioid business will be subject to stringent injunctive relief that, among other things, will prevent marketing and ensure systems are in place to prevent diversion.
Virginia Opioid Statistics
Since 2007, 8,000 Virginians have died from an opioid overdose, including 5,000 from a prescription opioid overdose and fatal fentanyl overdoses in Virginia have risen by nearly 1,600%, from just 48 in 2007 to more than 800 in 2018. In the same period, nearly 10,000 Virginians have died of a heroin or opioid overdose, including 5,700 from a prescription overdose, and nearly 3,500.
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