West Virginia’s Attorney General filed two lawsuits against a pair of opioid-manufacturers in Boone County Circuit Court on Monday, alleging the internationally operating companies have illegally misrepresented their products and downplayed the risks associated with opioid painkillers.
Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals and Endo Health Solutions, Inc. are the most recent organizations to be called out in a string of lawsuits filed by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey this year, bringing the total number of lawsuits to five
In all these suits, Morrisey has requested preliminary and temporary injunctions to stop the manufacturers from their allegedly unlawful conduct. Morrisey also is suing for equitable relief, including civil penalties of up to $5,000 per each violation of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
In Thursday’s more-than-sixty page suit against Endo Health Solutions, the lawsuit describes a product-line of prescription painkillers that were commonly associated with addiction and medical consequences.
In 1964, Endo’s oxycodone-aspirin product Percodan reportedly was reclassified as a Class A narcotic, only available by prescription. In 1966, Morrisey’s lawsuit reports people were abusing Endo’s tablet products, Numorphan, via injection.
By the 1970s, Endo reportedly succumbed to “regulatory pressure” and withdrew Numorphan from the market.
Endo reportedly asked the federal Food and Drug Administration to reactivate the company’s authority to sell tablets again in 1996, after witnessing Purdue’s success with selling their opioid product, Oxycontin.
According to the lawsuit, Endo’s rebranded its tablets under the new name Opana in 2006 and went on to persuade doctors and patients it was appropriate for long-term treatment of minor pain.
“Opioid manufacturers are responsible, in part, for the State's opioid epidemic,” the lawsuit said. “Over time, opioid manufacturers overcame physicians' reluctance to prescribe opioid pain relievers ...They [manufacturers] claimed doctors were confusing addiction with physical dependence and stated that addiction was rare and completely distinct from physical dependence, and claimed that physical dependence was clinically unimportant.”
As for the lawsuit against Mallinckrodt, Morrisey’s lawsuit calls the company the “largest U.S. supplier of opioid pain medications and among the top ten generic pharmaceutical manufacturers in the U.S.”
The document also includes emails reportedly from the company to prove Mallinckrodt leadership was aware of the addictive risks associated with their product.
In one email, the lawsuit quotes a conversation between Vice President Steven Cochran of the distributor Keysource Medical, Inc., and Victor Borelli, Mallinckrodt’s national retail account manager, who compared his company’s products to “Doritos.”
“Keep ‘em comin’,” Cochran allegedly wrote to Borelli. “Flyin’ out of here. [It’s] like people are addicted to these things or something. Oh, wait, people are …”
“Just like Doritos,” Borelli said. “Keep eating. We’ll make more.”