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08 February 2018, 12:36 | Randall Craig
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall has announced that he has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and Rhodes Pharmaceutical - collectively known as Purdue - which are manufacturers of prescription opioid pain medications.
The suit comes as leaders warn of a nationwide opioid crisis.
"As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge", Purdue officials added.
Alabama has the highest per capita rate of painkiller prescriptions in the United States, at 1.2 prescriptions per person.
Marshall was among the attorneys general who last Wednesday attended the first court-ordered settlement conference overseen US District Judge Dan Polster in Cleveland.
Officials in Alabama are suing the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, accusing the company of deceiving the public about the risks of opioids in pursuit of profits.
A federal judge in OH overseeing more than 200 lawsuits by cities, counties and others over the opioid epidemic recently reached out to some state attorneys general about meeting as he pushes for a quick settlement of the litigation. The Alabama Attorney General's office estimated that some 30,000 Alabamians are addicted to heroin or prescription painkillers.
"There was a concerted effort for an extended number of years to really pound this into the heads of doctors", Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine told NPR. The State has retained two law firms, Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C. of Montgomery and Prince, Glover & Hayes of Tuscaloosa to prosecute Alabama's claims on a contingency basis, under the supervision of attorneys from the Attorney General's Office.
Marshall said Purdue Pharma is the only defendant in the lawsuit because it is the largest provider of opioids in the state. "We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense". "It will take years to undo the damage but an important first step we must take is to hold the parties responsible for this epidemic legally liable for the destruction they have unleashed upon our citizens". In the U.S, more than 42,000 overdose deaths in 2016 involved opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, Alabama claims, Purdue worked to expand the use of drugs like OxyContin for chronic and less severe pain, as in arthritis, lower back pain, and frequent headaches.
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