CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced a lawsuit May 16 against Purdue Pharma and its former CEO for the marketing of opioids. West Virginia is one of five states to sue Purdue for its actions.
Morrisey said at a press conference that Iowa, Kansas, Maryland and Wisconsin also are ready to file suits as well, but that the state has been working with about 15 states on this.
"This sends a very clear message," Morrisey said. "Enough is enough. The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries and our states won’t go down quietly."
Morrisey said West Virginia has worked to revolutionize the state’s fight of opioid abuse, even creating a unit within the Attorney General's Office to fight opioids.
"There are over a dozen people (in the unit) focusing on this issue and attacking root causes of the opioid epidemic," Morrisey said.
This lawsuit, which was filed in Boone Circuit Court, is the second lawsuit against Purdue Pharma filed by the state. The first was filed by former Attorney General Darrell McGraw.
"Purdue didn’t change its ways," Morrisey said. "West Virginia has strong claims, and we will pursue them vigorously."
The lawsuit seeks to hold Purdue accountable for its actions.
"The state will be much more aggressive this time around," Morrisey said. "Today’s lawsuit is the product of many years of painstaking investigation. This has been a good team effort."
The lawsuit is a little bit different from the previous opioid lawsuits filed in the state because it also names former Purdue Pharma CEO Richard Sackler for his involvement.
"We believe that Purdue violated our state’s consumer credit and protection act," Morrisey said.
Morrisey said the state would work to get as much as it could for the people of West Virginia.
"Nothing can truly compensate West Virginia for all the death and destruction we’ve seen," Morrisey said. "We’re going to do our best to allay the concerns people have to provide adequate treatment for those victimized by the epidemic. We need to do more for this state. I’m committed to doing anything possible."
Morrisey's lawsuit claims Purdue's sales representatives routinely claimed that OxyContin didn't have a dose ceiling, despite assertions by federal regulators.
The first lawsuit filed against Purdue was filed back in 2001 and resulted in a $10 million settlement in 2004.
Today's suit claims Purdue violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act and created a public nuisance.
"The health and safety of West Virginia residents, including those who use, have used, or will use opioids, as well as those affected by users of opioids, is a matter of great public interest and of legitimate concern to the State," the complaint states. "West Virginians have a right to be free from conduct that endangers their health and safety and that interferes with the commercial marketplace."
The suit claims Purdue's conduct interfered in the enjoyment of these public rights.