New Jersey county sues OxyContin maker, alleges racketeering

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Less than three months after President Donald Trump declared the U.S. opioid crisis a public health emergency in October 2017, the nation's governors are calling on his administration and Congress to provide more money and coordination for the fight against the drugs. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey county Wednesday sued the company that manufactures OxyContin, claiming they executed a scheme to trick doctors into believing opioids could be prescribed for lengthy periods of time with little risk of addiction.

The lawsuit filed by Camden County in state Superior Court also names members of the Sackler family which owns Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, along with several other drugmakers, distributors and retailers.

The suit accuses the defendants of racketeering in marketing and distributing prescription painkillers, contending the scheme resulted in billions of dollars for them while leaving millions of people addicted to opioids. It cites the “staggering costs and a loss of resources” the county has incurred in attempting to curb the opioid epidemic. It seeks undisclosed damages.

Related Content: OxyContin maker will stop promoting opioids to doctors

“These people are no different than members of a drug cartel that distribute drugs illegally, or the drug pushers on our streets who push heroin and fentanyl on a daily basis,” county Freeholder Director Louis Cappelli Jr. said during a news conference announcing the suit. “Just so we are clear, the members of the Sackler family are the lowest form of humans you can possibly imagine. They have earned millions of dollars over the years at the expense of the American public.”

A Purdue Pharma spokesman said the company “vigorously denies” the allegations made in the suit, which seeks undisclosed damages, and looks forward to defending itself. The company said it is deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and is dedicated to being part of the solution.

“As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge,” it said.

Dozens of states, cities and counties have sued the pharmaceutical companies, including one that New Jersey state officials filed last October. That suit claims a “direct link” between the state’s opioid crisis and Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing practices.

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