Purdue Pharma settles multi-state marketing claim

John O'Brien May 8, 2007, 1:00pm

Purdue Pharma will pay nearly $20 million to settle a three-year investigation conducted by 27 attorneys general who alleged it unlawfully marketed its prescription painkiller OxyContin.

Several state attorneys general made the announcement Tuesday, adding that the amount each state receives will settle allegations that Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed the drug to doctors while downplaying a risk for addiction.

States like Oregon and Vermont will receive $949,500, active participant states will each receive about $719,000 and the other states $500,000 each.

All monies will be paid to the attorneys general, and no fund for individual refunds for consumers will be established.

"OxyContin abuse has ravaged the lives of thousands of Mainers, including entire families and communities. It has also contributed to increased crime rates and emergency medical treatment," Maine Attorney General Steven Rowe said.

"Had Purdue Pharma limited its marketing to the drug's approved uses and disclosed the drug's abuse and diversion risks up front, it is likely that much of the devastation could have been prevented. This is a clear example of a pharmaceutical company putting corporate profits above the health and welfare of people."

In addition to Maine and the District of Columbia, the following states took part in the settlement: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

Also required by the settlement is the continuation of Purdue Pharma's OxyContin Abuse and Diversion Detection Program, which was established to detect problem prescribing. Other restrictions and requirements are provisions that Purdue Pharma must:

-Market and promote OxyContin in a manner consistent with its package insert and not in a manner that minimizes the approved uses for the drug;

-Not market or promote OxyContin for off-label purposes - those beyond the approved indications and uses of the drug;

-Have any recipient of funds or other remuneration for grants publicly disclose the existence of that remuneration;

-Not sponsor or fund any educational events where Purdue has knowledge that a speaker will recommend the off-label use of OxyContin;

-Not base Purdue sales representatives' bonuses solely on the volume of OxyContin prescribed; and

-Take into account in performance evaluations sales representatives' educating prescribers about OxyContin and its potential for abuse and diversion.

"We are concerned about the abuse of prescription drugs and this case raised very serious allegations, along with concerns that young people are particularly frequently abusing this drug," Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said. "With this settlement, we have focused on requiring Purdue to take all measures necessary to protect people from abusing OxyContin, especially young people. We are pleased with the efforts that Purdue has committed to undertake to track and stop this abuse."

A 2004 settlement between West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw and Purdue Pharma has raised eyebrows in the Mountain State.

Out of the $10 million settlement, $2 million went to attorneys' fees for trial lawyers hired by McGraw, who also doled out much of the settlement himself instead of turning it over to the Legislature.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Fran Hughes recently told the Legislature that McGraw's office would stop spending the money, though in the next month McGraw handed out more $1 million (earlier Legal Newsline coverage can be found here).

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