The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is stepping up its efforts to take on the opioid crisis. Kwame Raoul’s office announced back in April that it was suing pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma Incorporated over deceptive marketing designed to significantly increase prescriptions issued for opioids. According to Raoul’s lawsuit, Purdue carried out an aggressive and misleading marketing effort to increase prescriptions of opioid painkillers even as communities throughout Illinois and across the country faced an opioid addiction epidemic.
Susan Ellis, Chief of the Consumer Protection Division in the Illinois Attorney General’s Office says that it’s just the first step in Raoul’s efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for the opioid crisis in Illinois. “I’d first like to say that in dealing with this crisis and holding all of those who helped cause it accountable is a high priority for Attorney General Raoul; and the Purdue lawsuit is just one part of that. We did file a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in April of this year, and Purdue Pharma is the maker of OxyContin. They have had a central role in causing the opioid crisis in Illinois and around the country.”
Ellis detailed the reasons why Purdue is being sued by the AG’s office: “Purdue played a key role in deceptively marketing in sending out the message to both doctors as well as patients that its opioid products – and opioid products in general – were not as risky and not as addictive as they in fact are. Purdue downplayed, we allege in our lawsuit, the risks of opioids and, in particular, they minimized the risks that people would become addicted to opioid drugs. We allege they did this in their own marketing. They sent representatives into Illinois hundreds of thousands of times between 2008-2016. In addition, Purdue also helped fund and prop up third-party organizations that also sent this message in a manner that was intended to make people think that it was an independent organization, when in fact other opioid manufacturers were behind them.”
On Wednesday August 21st, Raoul’s office filed a motion to expand the lawsuit to the family that owns Purdue Pharma. “We filed a motion asking the judge of the Purdue lawsuit to allow us to add claims against these individuals, these individuals are members of the Sackler family, which is the family that owns Purdue. These individual Sacklers were members of the board of directors of Purdue, and in that role, we have specific allegations that they knew about the fraudulent conduct. They participated in it. In addition, these individual Sacklers, because they owned the company, they directed billions of dollars out of the company into their own personal accounts over a series of years. We’ve alleged that’s also fraudulent conduct.”
Ellis says that residents can do their part to combat the opioid crisis and also contribute to the lawsuit by contacting the Attorney General’s office. “Anyone who believes that they have information or would like to provide us with any information is absolutely more than welcome to do so. Our website illinoisattorneygeneral.gov – we have a place there to file a consumer complaint or there is also a hotline to call for our consumer fraud department and you can get to us. You can also mail something in.”
The lawsuit is asking the court to require Purdue to give up revenues made as a result of the conduct, and pay to help for remediation of the problem in the state. Purdue Pharma, Inc. is currently trying to settle its numerous lawsuits in other states out of court.