Conway touts Ky. crackdown on prescription abuse

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 15, 2013 at 12:05 pm •  Published: January 15, 2013

"We've lost a generation of people to prescription pill abuse," he said. "It's a problem that has affected every family in the commonwealth, just about, as far as I can see."

Conway cited the arrest Monday of pain management clinic owner Ernest William Singleton of Washington County on drug and money laundering charges as evidence that Kentucky is taking the problem seriously.

And Conway said Kentucky officials will get a chance to pursue a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of the powerful painkiller Oxycontin. Conway's office won a court ruling pushing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma back from New York to Kentucky's Appalachian region where drug abuse is rampant and where the litigation originated.

Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007 seeking reimbursement of money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions. Kentucky officials accused Purdue Pharma of falsely promoting Oxycontin, the brand name for oxycodone, to health care providers as less addictive and less likely to cause withdrawal than other pain medications.

Purdue Pharma moved the case to federal court in eastern Kentucky, then to southern New York, citing federal issues involved in the litigation, before an appeals panel ordered it back to Pikeville. Purdue Pharma has said it intends to "vigorously defend this action on the merits, and we expect to prevail."

By 2000, Oxycontin abuse was on the rise. Police blamed the drug for hundreds of deaths, and in 2007 a federal judge ordered Purdue and three of its executives to pay a $634.5 million fine for misleading the public about the drug's risk of addiction.

Purdue has denied misleading consumers. A company executive said in an affidavit that the company had sold more than $5 million worth of the drug in Kentucky between January 2006 and August 2007, but denied that Purdue Pharma did anything illegal.

"We're going to be going after them aggressively, and we are going make them face a Pike County jury regarding the true addictive nature of Oxycontin," Conway said. "I look forward to that day in court, and hopefully, whatever recovery we get, we can put toward treatment."