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US opioid industry beset by legal actions

BMJ 2019; 365 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l2235 (Published 16 May 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;365:l2235
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

Makers and distributors of opioids have been hit by a series of legal, financial, and public relations setbacks in recent days, suggesting that a public reckoning for North America’s opioid crisis is gathering momentum.

On 14 May Pennsylvania filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, alleging that the company deliberately misled doctors and patients. “Purdue created the opioid epidemic that is killing Pennsylvanians,” alleges the legal complaint, which documents 531 000 visits by Purdue sales staff to doctors’ offices, a “barrage” of marketing surpassed only in California.1

“While Pennsylvania paid the price, Purdue made more than $35bn [£27bn; €31bn] in revenue,” said Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, announcing the suit. Opioid related fatalities cost the state more than $142bn between 2012 and 2016, he said, and in Pennsylvania an average of 15 people a day died from overdose in 2017.

That annual overdose death rate, 42 per 100 000, compares …

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