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OxyContin maker faces Kentucky lawsuit over addiction risk, overprescription of painkiller

The state of Kentucky has filed a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the painkiller drug OxyContin for actions that it says helped fuel a “pill epidemic” in the state. The lawsuit accuses Perdue Pharma of hiding the addiction risk of OxyContin from doctors and of encouraging physicians who were not trained in pain management to overprescribe the painkiller to patients.

OxyContin—sold generically as oxycodone—is a powerful and highly addictive type of opioid painkiller. Despite this fact, Kentucky officials allege that Perdue promoted OxyContin as having a lower risk than other opioid products of causing addiction or of leading to withdrawal symptoms in patients.

As a result of this misrepresentation, state officials say that Kentucky spent millions on drug treatment programs due to addictions caused by OxyContin, as well as unnecessary Medicaid prescriptions for the opioid drug. The Kentucky OxyContin lawsuit is seeking reimbursement of these expenses.

Earlier in the case, Perdue admitted to having concealed the true risk of OxyContin addiction and to have encouraged inexperienced doctors to overprescribe the drug. The company tried to have these admissions withdrawn from the record, but was overruled by the judge overseeing the case.