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States say OxyContin maker provided insufficient warning of peril

Most people in Louisiana have heard of -- and perhaps witnessed firsthand -- the opioid drug epidemic that has raged across the Bayou State and the country as a whole. There are always many contributing factors to the proliferation of drug addiction whenever it happens. But according to some state attorneys general, a major factor in the epidemic was the decision by one drug maker to misrepresent the dangers of its products.

A number of state and local governments have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the opioid painkiller OxyContin. According to the officials, the pharmaceutical company chose to misrepresent the dangers posed by OxyContin. The officials allege that the company falsely told physicians that OxyContin was less addictive than other opioid painkillers and was less likely to get into the hands of those addicted to opioids.

Purdue Pharma has challenged the officials' characterization of the company's actions. The company said that they have developed less addictive alternatives to OxyContin and that they have worked with law enforcement to control the abuse of opioids.

Pharmaceutical companies have a duty to label their products reasonably accurately and to take reasonable steps to inform physicians of the dangers posed by their products. State and local governments are not the only entities that might be able to sue misrepresenting drug makers. The victims of the misrepresentations -- or their families -- may also consider pursuing product liability claims against drug manufacturers when they provide insufficient warning of the effects of their products. If a dangerous pharmaceutical drug is misrepresented by a drug manufacturer, that manufacturer may be liable for any damages their actions caused.

Source: CBS News, "Drugmakers may face more legal action over opioid epidemic," Laura Strickler, Sept. 1, 2016

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