Wisconsin joins more than 40 other states trying to hold drug companies responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic.
Attorney General Josh Kaul announced the suit from the State Capitol this morning, saying that Purdue Pharma used deceptive marketing to mislead doctors, downplaying the risk of addiction.
“Because what our suits allege is that the opioid epidemic was not inevitable”, said Kaul. “This epidemic has torn families apart, it has led to the overdose deaths of thousands of Wisconsinites, it has strained our foster care services, it has strained our healthcare system, it has strained our criminal justice system.”
Kaul was joined by Governor Evers, who said it was the drug companies who profited from the crisis, while communities and governments have been left to pick up the pieces.
“Purdue and the Sackler family led consumers and the health care community to believe the myth that opioids were the best way to treat chronic pain. That’s wrong. It’s time for Purdue and companies like Purdue across the world to be held accountable to the people who have suffered at the hands of these decisions and dishonesty,” said Evers.
More than 5,000 people across the state have died from opioid overdoses in the past decade.
That number would be much higher without the use of Narcan, the life-saving drug that police and paramedics use to revive people who’ve overdosed, if they can get to them in time.
Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney says it costs his department hundreds of thousands of dollars every year to respond to the crisis. “This must end,” he said. “In Dane County, we’re responding to 12 to 15 overdoses a week.”
The lawsuit seeks to make the drug company pay for some of the costs of addiction: for the police, social workers, counselors, and lawyers, the overdose reversal drugs, the increased health care costs. The cost of the epidemic isn’t known, but CDC estimates put it in the billions of dollars.
Purdue Pharma denied the allegations, calling them misleading attacks. A North Dakota judge threw out a similar case last week, filed by their attorney general. Purdue Spokesperson Bob Josephson called it a significant legal victory, saying that “the state’s lawyers are attempting to substitute their opinions for the expert medical judgments made by the FDA, and if allowed to stand, patients will suffer. ”
In addition to the state lawsuits, more than 1,600 local governments are currently suing Purdue Pharma and other drug companies in federal court.
Molly Stentz reported this story.
This story has been updated to add comments from Purdue Pharma and to correct the number of opioid-related drug overdoses.