Attorney General Andy Beshear today filed suit against St. Louis-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Mallinckrodt for profiting from its massive supply of opioids to Kentucky doctors and patients for decades despite knowing and misrepresenting the addictive nature of their drugs.
The lawsuit alleges Mallinckrodt, founded in 1867 and one of the earliest producers of morphine and codeine, sold and promoted its opioids by falsely claiming the drugs could be taken in higher doses without disclosing the greater risks of potential addiction. Beshear said this action allowed the company to grow its market in Kentucky while contributing to the state’s drug epidemic.
“Our lawsuit alleges Mallinckrodt’s dangerously false marketing of its opioids correlates directly to the skyrocketing addiction, overdoses and deaths in Kentucky.” Beshear said. “The company generated over $3 billion in revenues in 2017, and we are seeking to hold them accountable under Kentucky law by making them pay for the damages caused to our state and Kentucky families.”
Today’s lawsuit filed in Madison Circuit Court is the seventh opioid related lawsuit Beshear has filed.
Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ruled this week that he would not dismiss Beshear’s 2016 lawsuit against manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals regarding its drug Opana ER. The suit alleges Endo, who asked for the dismissal, violated state law and directly contributed to opioid related deaths and overdoses in Kentucky.
Beshear said similar to Endo, Mallinckrodt unlawfully built a market for the chronic use of opioids in the name of increasing corporate profits, knowing all along the dangers.
In his lawsuit against Mallinckrodt, Beshear claims that in promoting its branded opioids, the company consistently mischaracterized the risk of addiction and presented deceptive messages to Kentucky prescribers through patient guides, websites, marketing materials and its sales representatives.
Beshear said the company makes claims, without evidence, that long-term opioid use “helps enable patients to stay in the workplace, enjoy interactions with family and friends and remain an active member of society,” according to the company’s website.
The lawsuit alleges that the company directed “front groups” to promote opioid use and combat efforts to restrict opioid prescribing and that it failed to report suspicious orders of opioid supplies into Kentucky.
“While an agreement with the DEA currently prevents us from releasing a total number of doses sent to Kentucky, I can tell you that number is egregious and large enough to potentially cause addiction in every man, woman and child in this state,” Beshear said.
In 2017, Mallinckrodt agreed to pay $35 million to the federal government for violating federal reporting laws and entered into an accountability agreement with the DEA. Beshear’s lawsuit claims Mallinckrodt willfully violated Kentucky law by failing to report suspicious orders.
Along with Endo and Mallinckrodt, Beshear has sued three national opioid distributors, Pennsylvania-based AmerisourceBergen, Ohio-based Cardinal Health and San Francisco-based McKesson Corporation, which together are responsible for supplying 85 percent of opioids in Kentucky; New Jersey pharmaceutical manufacturer Johnson and Johnson and Walgreens.
As the lawsuits progress, Beshear said his main priority is to make sure the drug companies are hauled into a Kentucky court and held accountable to those they have harmed – the people of Kentucky.
Beshear’s office works to combat illegal drug use and abuse in Kentucky communities. Investigators from the Office of the Attorney General are assigned to the Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Task Force (HIDTA). The Appalachia HIDTA consists of counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Under prevention efforts, Beshear launched the Kentucky Opioid Disposal Program, the state’s first initiative to allow Kentuckians to safely dispose of opioid medications at home. The pilot program includes Henderson, Floyd, McCracken and Perry counties. Beshear’s Office of Senior Protection is also working with the faith-based community to distribute the pouches at senior events.
In total, the program has the potential to dispose of more than 2.2 million unused opioids.