Schenectady County is right to follow several other New York state counties and municipalities around the country in suing drug manufacturers for costs incurred in fighting the opioid crisis. In fact, this lawsuit is long overdue.
In the late ’90s, Purdue Pharmaceuticals introduced what it touted as a nearly addiction-proof opioid, OxyContin. The company claimed that the drug’s time-release formula would give patients steadier pain relief and allow them to avoid withdrawal. A promotional video from 1998 stated that the addiction rate for OxyContin users treated by doctors was less than 1 percent. Its marketing was misleading enough that it led the federal government to charge Purdue with a criminal count of misbranding the drug “with intent to defraud and mislead the public.”
In its 2007 guilty plea, Purdue acknowledged that its promotional materials had contained misleading or inaccurate data and that its sales force had made claims unsupported by science that falsely downplayed the addiction risks. While the company paid $635 million in penalties, it was a drop in the bucket; Purdue had revenue of $3.1 billion from OxyContin in 2010 alone. Other drug manufacturers followed Purdue’s lead in defrauding the public and the result has been millions of Americans addicted and hundreds of thousands dead.
So the real questions are, why has it taken so long to file a lawsuit and why haven’t more lawsuits been filed?