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Purdue Pharma Seeks Dismissal Of Mass. Lawsuit Alleging Greed, Deception By Opioid Maker

OxyContin, shown in this file photo, is made by Purdue Pharma. (Toby Talbot/AP)
OxyContin, shown in this file photo, is made by Purdue Pharma. (Toby Talbot/AP)

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is asking a court to throw out a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts' attorney general that accuses the company, its owners and top executives of deceiving patients and doctors about the risks of opioids.

In its motion seeking dismissal, Purdue argues the lawsuit distorts facts, mischaracterizes internal company documents and makes oversimplified claims while attempting to cast the Connecticut-based firm as a scapegoat for the deadly opioid addiction crisis.

Attorneys for the company allege that Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey made sensational and inflammatory claims against Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family. The memorandum says Purdue has complied with all FDA requirements, including the addition in 2001 of black box labeling, "that specifically warned that OxyContin carried a risk of abuse and misuse."

In addition, lawyers for Purdue argue that Massachusetts' own reporting on the opioid epidemic says it is a complex issue with a number of contributing factors. The company alleges that OxyContin makes up only a small portion of the national opioid market — currently less than 2 percent, according to the memorandum filed with the court.

A spokeswoman for Healey said Monday the state would fight Purdue's bid to throw out the case. The state claims the company told doctors OxyContin had a low addiction risk and pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drug longer.

More than 1,000 state and local governments have lawsuits pending against drugmakers, most naming multiple defendants.

In what may be a sign of mounting pressure from these legal proceedings, Reuters and other news outlets report that Purdue is exploring a bankruptcy filing. That could affect some of the lawsuits, potentially allowing Purdue to negotiate settlements under the supervision of a bankruptcy court, according to Reuters.

Responding to the report, Purdue declined to comment on its legal or financial strategy.

"We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners,” the company said in a statement.

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