SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Two California counties have filed a lawsuit accusing five drug companies of waging a campaign of deception to boost the sales of painkillers behind the nation's prescription drug addiction problem.
Orange and Santa Clara counties filed the suit Wednesday in Orange County Superior Court, alleging false advertising, unfair competition and creating a public nuisance.
Much like the legal attack on tobacco companies two decades ago by many states, the current lawsuit accuses the drug manufacturers of making misleading and false claims about the safety of products consumed annually by millions of Americans.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the entire state of California and seeks to stop the marketing campaigns involving opioid-based painkillers and demands unspecified compensation for alleged damage to public health and patients.
The five companies named in the case are Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' Cephalon Inc.
In a previous case, Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, and three of its former executives agreed to pay $634 million to settle criminal and civil charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice claiming the company misled regulators, doctors and patients about the potential for addiction and abuse.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that opioid painkillers contributed to 16,651 deaths in 2010 — more than twice the number attributed to cocaine and heroin use combined.
The lawsuit filed by the California counties says increasing drug overdoses burden busy hospital emergency rooms and add to rising medical costs.