PDT Staff Writer
In recent years, the illegal usage and sale of the opiate Oxycontin in Scioto County has been blamed for everything from pain clinics, labeled “pill mills,” in which people paid cash for prescriptions, to actual deaths. Now, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of that drug, will have to have their day in court in Pike County, Kentucky, and not in New York, their apparent location of preference.
According to the Williamson Daily News, the lawsuit, filed by the Commonwealth of Kentucky, alleges that Purdue Pharma misled healthcare providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with Oxycontin, a schedule II narcotic. The suit seeks reimbursement for costs incurred in drug abuse programs.
In 2007, shortly after the case was filed, Purdue Pharma removed the case to the Southern District of New York, where it has been continuously stayed for nearly four years. Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway argued against the case being heard in New York, and now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has affirmed a lower court’s order returning that suit to Kentucky, thus removing it from the Southern District of New York. The two-judge panel upheld the prior decision of the U.S. District Court, which allowed the Attorney General’s motion to proceed with the litigation in Pike Circuit Court where it was originally filed.
“OxyContin is highly addictive and easily abused prescription drug that has wrought tragic consequences throughout the Commonwealth, and Purdue Pharma’s misrepresentations about its addictive nature helped fuel an epidemic of prescription pill abuse across Kentucky,” Conway said. “After years of delay tactics, Purdue will now answer to a Kentucky court and a Kentucky jury.”
Obviously the case has relevancy in Scioto County and much of Appalachia.
“It’s a good ruling because it sends that particular case back to be decided by the people from the region that it most affected,” Assistant Scioto County Prosecutor Joe Hale said.
In 2007, the drug-maker and three executives pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to criminal charges for misleading regulators, doctors and consumers about the addictive risks of Oxycontin. Purdue and its parent company agreed to pay $634 million in fines, the third-highest amount ever paid by a drug-maker for that type of violation.
Lisa Roberts, RN, of the Portsmouth Health Department, who is also a long-time anti-illegal drug activist, said the history of Purdue Pharma’s legal involvements is laced with big name participants. Early on, Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani represented the company. And in 2001, Darrell McGraw Jr., the longtime Democratic attorney general of the state of West Virginia, filed a civil case against Purdue Pharma alleging that the privately held pharmaceutical company had engaged in “coercive and deceptive” marketing of OxyContin.
The morning the case was to go to trial, in November 2004, Eric Holder, now the Agttorney General of the United States, helped negotiate a settlement. Working in the judge’s chambers in West Virginia, he put together an agreement under which the firm would have to pay $10 million over four years into drug abuse and education programs in West Virginia — and Purdue Pharma would not have to admit any wrongdoing.
A spokesman for Pike County Courts said the federal appeals process isn’t complete, so no date has been set for the trial to begin.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org