CHARLESTON —Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has filed lawsuits against two opioid manufacturers, continuing what his office calls its battle against those who helped fuel the state’s drug epidemic.
The lawsuits, filed Nov. 19 in Boone Circuit Court, allege Endo Health Solutions Inc., Mallinckrodt LLC and subsidiaries contributed to the opioid crisis by engaging in strategic campaigns to deceive prescribers and misrepresent the risks and benefits of opioid painkillers.
“We must hold everyone in the pharmaceutical supply channel accountable,” Morrisey said. “We cannot let bad actors go unpunished. These alleged actions have caused widespread harm to our state and its citizens.
“We will not tolerate these practices, nor will we stand idly by as senseless death takes the lives of far too many West Virginians.”
The lawsuits allege the defendants mischaracterized and failed to disclose the serious risk of addiction, overstated the benefits of chronic opioid therapy and promoted higher dosage amounts without disclosing inherently greater risks.
Specifically, the Endo complaint alleges the company rebranded its widely abused drug from the 1960s to keep up with competition decades later. The effort included a new name, Opana, and a new color to minimize memory of a reputation tarnished by widespread abuse and diversion. The Endo lawsuit also claims the company misrepresented a later version of Opana ER as tamper resistant.
The Mallinckrodt lawsuit claims company executives ignored warnings of abuse. It cites one email in which a distributor jokes that consumers are addicted to its product, to which a Mallinckrodt executive compared opioids to chips in replying, “Keep eating. We’ll make more.”
The Mallinckrodt lawsuit cites another email alleging the company used a reggae song to train its sales team to push doctors to prescribe stronger doses of opioids. The email, which wished its recipients “happy listening and good selling,” was not to be shared with customers or others outside the team.
Both lawsuits allege the manufacturers’ conduct and campaign of misrepresentations led to opioids becoming a common treatment for chronic pain in West Virginia. It says action that fueled substance abuse and the state’s skyrocketing rate of overdose deaths.
The AG’s office alleges the conduct of the companies violated the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act and caused a public nuisance. Both lawsuits seek injunctive and equitable relief.
Earlier this year, Morrisey’s office filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals.
Endo is joined by co-defendant subsidiaries Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Par Pharmaceuticals Inc. The Mallinckrodt lawsuit lists subsidiary SpecGx LLC as an additional defendant.
Both cases have been assigned to Circuit Judge William S. Thompson.
Boone Circuit Court case numbers 19-C-150 (Mallinckrodt) and 19-C-151 (Endo)