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State attorneys general sue Purdue Pharma over opioid epidemic

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(Reuters) — Six more states on Tuesday announced lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma L.P., accusing the company of fueling a national opioid epidemic by deceptively marketing its prescription painkillers to generate billions of dollars in sales.

State attorneys general of Nevada, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota and Tennessee also said Purdue Pharma violated state consumer protection laws by falsely denying or downplaying the addiction risk while overstating the benefits of opioids.

“It’s time the defendants pay for the pain and the destruction they’ve caused,” Florida State Attorney General Pam Bondi said during a broadcast of the announcement.

Florida also sued drugmakers Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., Allergan, units of Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Mallinckrodt, as well as drug distributors AmerisourceBergen Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and McKesson Corp.

The announcements follow lawsuits already filed by 16 other U.S. states, Puerto Rico and New York City against the privately-held company. Purdue in February announced a halt to its promotion of opioids to physicians following widespread criticism of the ways drugmakers market addictive painkillers.

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue in a statement said it denied the allegations. It noted its drugs are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and account for only 2% of all opioid prescriptions.

“We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help these states address the opioid crisis, this group of attorneys general have unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” Purdue said.

Opioids were involved in more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016, the last year for which data is available, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.