Connecticut attorney general files new suit against Purdue Pharma

Amended lawsuit focuses on money trail

By Mark Morales, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Hartford, Conn. - An amended lawsuit filed by the Connecticut attorney general alleges that the owners of pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma illegally shuffled hundreds of millions of dollars to other Sackler family-owned properties and downplayed the addictive nature of opioids to doctors while pressuring sales reps.

The initial lawsuit, alleging violations of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by individuals and Purdue, was filed in December. In the amended suit, filed April 22 in Hartford Superior Court, Purdue Pharma faces a new fifth charge: fraudulent transfer.

Five additional companies controlled by the Sackler family are also listed in this version of the lawsuit: Purdue Holdings L.P., PLP Associates Holdings L.P., BR Holdings Associates L.P., Rosebay Medical Company L.P. and Beacon Co.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who amended the suit, charged that the company has been moving the money so they could threaten bankruptcy as a way to avoid paying restitution.

"We're going to chase them to the ends of the Earth to make sure we get that money for the victims and their families," Tong said Tuesday.

About 1,000 people died of opioid overdoses in Connecticut last year, Tong said.

Purdue Pharma officials said in a statement that they "vigorously deny the allegations."

"The complaint is part of a continuing effort to try these cases through the media rather than the justice system," spokesman Robert Josephson said. "Such allegations demand clear evidence linking the conduct alleged to the harm described, but we believe the state fails to show such causation to support its sweeping legal claims."

The Sackler family and Purdue Pharma are no strangers to legal action over their connection to the nation's opioid crisis. Lawsuits seem to follow a common theme, alleging that deceptive marketing practices and manufacturing of the dangerous and highly addictive painkiller OxyContin has added to the epidemic, making the family a fortune in the process.

In March, more than 600 cities, counties and Native American tribes from 28 states filed a federal lawsuit against eight members of the family, accusing them of creating the opioid crisis through ownership of the company that manufactures OxyContin.

Also last month, the New York attorney general's office announced its own comprehensive amended lawsuit, this time against six opioid manufacturers, including Purdue Pharma, and eight members of the Sackler family. The claims again were deceptive marketing and failure to prevent drugs from getting into the wrong hands.

Purdue Pharma also agreed, without admitting liability, to pay $270 million to settle a lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general, who accused it of aggressively marketing the painkiller and fueling the drug epidemic.

Attorneys for the family and for Purdue Pharma have continuously denied the allegations.

"These false allegations distract from the important work of finding solutions to a complex public health crisis by placing blame where it does not belong. Government data consistently makes clear that our nation's opioid crisis is growing rapidly because of illicit fentanyl and heroin smuggled in from China and Mexico," said Clio Boele, spokeswoman for the Sackler family members named in the Connecticut lawsuit. "We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them."

Josephson added that the company has worked to address the opioid addiction, including initiatives aimed at minimizing diversion and abuse of OxyContin and developing a prescription opioid with abuse-deterrent properties.

"Purdue Pharma will continue to defend itself in the litigation and continues to fight for balance in the public discourse so that society can simultaneously help pain patients in need and create real solutions to the complex problem of addiction," Josephson said in the statement.

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