The district attorney offices of the counties of Orange and Santa Clara have teamed up to charge five large pharmaceutical companies with endangering patients and deceiving doctors by intentionally misrepresenting the dangerously addictive nature of painkillers to expand their markets and profits.
The companies and their headquarters are: Purdue Pharma L.P. of Stamford, CT; Cephalon, Inc. of Frazier, PA; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Titusville, N.J., and two Dublin, Ireland-based companies, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Actavis, Inc.
"As district attorney, I have the task of protecting the people of Orange County against false advertising and unfair business practices in consumer protection cases," says District Attorney Tony Rackauckas in a statement from his office.
"We have charged these pharmaceutical companies for knowingly harming public health by waging a massive campaign to sell huge quantities of these dangerous drugs for profit. It is imperative for prescription drugs to be taken to promote health, not endanger lives, and that those responsible for producing these drugs not engage in deception."
The complaint filed Wednesday specifically mentions opioids, a class of narcotic prescription painkillers that have reaped multi-billion-dollar profits for the drug industry--"at expense of patient health," the DA's office would add. Percocet and that old Rush Limbaugh standby OxyContin are among the brand names of these prescription drugs that can be as addictive and deadly as heroin.
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"The defendants are accused of knowingly misleading doctors and patients about the proper use and risks of opioids," reads the OCDA statement. "They are accused of engaging in a decade-long intensive marketing campaign to misrepresent the benefits of using opioids for common non-cancer chronic pain such as back pain, arthritis, and headaches, despite warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that such claims were unsupported."
When it comes specifically to Orange County, the OCDA points to the 2012 Sheriff-Coroner Annual Report that revealed prescription drug overdose deaths here rose from 88 in 1999 to 188 in 2012. Meanwhile, the Orange County Health Care Agency observed 291 opioid overdoses in Orange County in 2012, amounting to almost 40 percent of accidental deaths in the county that year.
The OCDA invites "anyone with grievances or wishing to provide additional information" to leave a message on their Opioid Consumer Protection Hotline at (714) 347-0501.