June 30, 2017
NPR and co-counsel Whitten Burrage (“WB”) have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the State of Oklahoma against several major pharmaceutical companies that manufacture highly addictive and often deadly opioid painkillers. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants—including Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, and Cephalon—conspired to intentionally mislead Oklahoma healthcare providers and residents about the addictive and harmful nature of opioid medications in order to increase sales of their drugs in the State. These companies advertised opioids as being essentially non-addictive and harmless, which caused massive volumes of unnecessary drugs to be prescribed to Oklahomas, creating a severe public health nuisance.
In a press conference about the lawsuit, Oklahoma Attorney General, Mike Hunter, who engaged NPR and WB as counsel for the State, explained, “We’ve had almost 3,000 overdose deaths in the last three years in Oklahoma.” Hunter said, “We need to hold these people accountable. Manufacturers have in a consistent and … coldblooded fashion marketed these drugs in a way that has misrepresented their tendency to be addictive and the extent to which they can be deadly.” Oklahoma has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic, which President Trump has called a national emergency.
Oklahoma has spent and will continue to spend huge sums of money to address the harm inflicted by this epidemic, including healthcare, law-enforcement, prison costs. The lawsuit seeks damages, civil penalties and remedial relief from the defendants to compensate the State and abate the opioid epidemic and public health nuisance the defendants have caused in Oklahoma. The case is called State of Oklahoma v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., et al.