State of Alaska sues second opioid manufacturer

Bottles of opioid pills, drugs

Opioids (Creative Commons photo (cropped from original) by K-State Research and Extension)

The Alaska Department of Law is suing a second opioid manufacturer, alleging deception around the addictiveness of painkillers that contributed to Alaska’s opioid epidemic.

It’s part of the state’s effort to hold drug companies accountable and recoup costs associated with widespread opioid misuse and addiction.

State attorneys announced Monday a lawsuit against Mallinckrodt, manufacturer of several opioid medications. The lawsuit alleges Mallinckrodt downplayed the risks of its products while exaggerating the benefits and using deception in marketing the drugs to doctors and other prescribers.

“Because these companies were so eager to expand usage, and therefore expand their profit, they need to help us make it right,” said Assistant Attorney General Cynthia Franklin.

The Mallinckrodt lawsuit represents the third opioid-related suit Alaska has filed. The state sued Purdue Pharma, maker of the drug Oxycontin, in 2017 and sued distributors McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Company in 2018.

Dozens of other states, cities and tribal organizations have filed similar suits in state and federal courts.

The lawsuits are aimed at preventing negligence, but the state is also seeking money to deal with a public health crisis, Franklin said.

“Part of it is recouping money that the state has spent through its health care programs,” Franklin said. “But more than that, part of the lawsuits that Alaska has filed so far are seeking remediation costs. There are a lot of treatments that we have not been able to afford.”

The case against Purdue is working its way through Alaska Superior Court. A judge last summer denied Purdue’s motion to dismiss the case.

Franklin said there’s a good chance the lawsuit against Mallinckrodt filed Monday will not be the last.

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