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Ohio suing Purdue Pharma, four others over opioid marketing

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Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is suing five makers of opioid painkillers – including the already legally embattled Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford – for their role in that state’s opioid epidemic.

The suit, which DeWine said is the second by a U.S. state after Mississippi, alleges that the drugmakers violated multiple state laws, including the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act, and committed Medicaid fraud.

The other companies being sued are Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceutical unit, Teva Pharmaceuticals and its Cephalon unit, Endo Health Solutions and Allergan.

DeWine maintained in a press conference that pharmaceutical companies spent $168 million in 2014 to help convince doctors that their opioid products’ sales tactics downplayed the risks of such medicines. Last year, he said, 2.3 million people in Ohio, or about a fifth of the state’s population, were prescribed opioids.

Purdue Pharma issued a statement that said: “We share the attorney general’s concerns about the opioid crisis, and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions. OxyContin accounts for less than 2 percent of the opioid analgesic prescription market nationally, but we are an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone – all important components for combating the opioid crisis.”

The city of Everett, Washington sued Purdue Pharma earlier this year, accusing the drugmaker of gross negligence and seeking payment for the costs of handling opioid addiction.

Meanwhile, Gov. Dannel Malloy applauded the bipartisan, unanimous vote in the Connecticut House of Representatives on May 31 to approve legislation he introduced earlier this year designed to further Connecticut’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis. The legislation now moves to the State Senate for consideration.

The provisions of House Bill 7052, “An Act Preventing Prescription Opioid Diversion and Abuse,” include:

  • Increasing data sharing between state agencies regarding opioid abuse and opioid overdose deaths;
  • Facilitating the destruction of unused prescription medication by utilizing registered nurses employed for home health care agencies;
  • Increasing security of controlled substances prescriptions by requiring scheduled drugs be electronically prescribed;
  • Allowing patients to file a voluntary non-opioid form in their medical records indicating that they do not want to be prescribed or administered opioid drugs;
  • Expanding requirements about information regarding provider communications about of the risk and signs of addiction, and the dangers of drug interactions to cover all opioid prescriptions – current law is just for minors;
  • Reducing the maximum opioid drug prescription for minors from seven days to five days;
  • Requiring the Department of Public Health to put information online about how prescribers can obtain certification for suboxone and other medicines to treat opioid use disorder;
  • Requiring individual and group health insurers to cover medically necessary detox treatment, as defined by American Society of Addiction Medicine criteria; and
  • Requiring alcohol and drug treatment facilities use ASAM criteria for admission guidelines.
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