• Tribe in Oklahoma sues opioid manufacturers, distributors

    Updated:
    OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A tribe in Oklahoma has filed a lawsuit accusing 26 drug manufacturers and distributors of contributing to the tribe's opioid epidemic by fraudulently misrepresenting the risks and benefits of addictive painkillers.

    The lawsuit filed by the Ponca Tribe Tuesday is similar to a number of other lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors nationwide, The Oklahoman reported.

    The lawsuit alleges that opioid manufacturers and distributors "flooded the market with false declarations designed to convince doctors, patients and government entities that prescription opioids posed a low risk of addiction." It alleges those false claims have resulted in an opioid epidemic, with 1 in 10 Native Americans over the age of 12 using prescription pain medicine for nonprescriptive purposes.

    "Virtually every tribal member has been adversely impacted by the opioid epidemic," the tribe said. "This epidemic has been growing for years and the effects of this crisis have only been exacerbated by defendants' efforts to conceal and minimize the risks of opioid addiction."

    The tribe is seeking a jury trial and an injunction that prohibits drug manufacturers and distributors from engaging in "unfair or deceptive practices."

    Drug manufacturers listed as defendants said opioid abuse is a serious health issue, but deny wrongdoing.

    "Our actions in the marketing and promotion of these medicines were appropriate and responsible," said Jessica Castles Smith, spokeswoman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. "The labels for our prescription opioid pain medicines provide information about their risks and benefits, and the allegations made against our company are baseless and unsubstantiated."

    John Puskar, director of public affairs for Purdue Pharma LP, said his company also denies the allegations made against it and looks forward to presenting its defense.

    "As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge," Puskar said.

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    Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com

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