Nevada AG’s office suing drugmaker over opioid claims


Chris Kudialis

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt announces a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma during a news conference at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas on May 15, 2018. Laxalt’s office is accusing the drug manufacturer of contributing to the state’s opioid crisis by exaggerating OxyContin’s role in pain relief and purposely understating risk of addiction/

Published Tue, May 15, 2018 (1:34 p.m.)

Updated Tue, May 15, 2018 (3:19 p.m.)

One of the country’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers knowingly exaggerated claims about the effectiveness of its drugs to mislead Nevada doctors to prescribe more painkilling opioid pills to patients, state Attorney General Adam Laxalt said today.

The Nevada A.G.’s office announced the filing of a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and its smaller affiliate companies after a two-year investigation revealed the company — which manufactures popular drugs OxyContin and Butrans among othern opioids — trained sales representatives to overstate to Nevada doctors the drugs’ effectiveness in long-term pain relief to generate more sales of the drugs, Laxalt said. Purdue Pharma representatives also understated the risk of addiction to the drugs, ultimately contributing to large-scale opioid dependence and abuse in Nevada, Laxalt said.

“Today’s lawsuit is another step on the path toward justice for victims of this epidemic,” Laxalt said. “These companies will be held accountable for their conduct.”

Purdue Pharma spokesman Robert Josephson said the company was disappointed with the lawsuit. The company announced in February that it would stop marketing opioids to doctors.

The suit, filed in Clark County District Court, seeks money from Purdue to be shared by Nevada state agencies and municipalities to spend on drug treatment facilities and rehabilitation centers, Laxalt said. The attorney general said his office was seeking an out-of-court settlement with Purdue. He added that “several” other pharmaceutical companies also were being investigated for illegal marketing and inaccurate claims of their products in Nevada. Laxalt’s office has not filed suit against any other pharmaceutical companies.

Among about two dozen community members, anti-drug activists and counselors in attendance at today’s announcement, which took place at the Grant Sawyer Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., Edward and Cindy Yenick, attending from Reno, said their son, Michael, was died as a result of addiction to opioids prescribed after he suffered knee and back injuries while playing football in 2001 for UNR.

Michael Yenick became addicted to high amounts of oxycodone prescribed to their son by Dr. Robert Rand at the time, and died of an overdose of the drug in 2015. Rand, who prescribed over 401,000 more opiate pills in 2015 any other doctor in Northern Nevada and was a client of Purdue Pharma, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in Yenick’s death, and operating a pill-mill out of his office as well as a local Ford dealership. Rand was sentenced last October to 10 years in prison.

“The time has come for these companies to be held accountable for their bad acts,” Edward Yenick said.

Laxalt’s office worked in collaboration with 35 other states in its investigation of Purdue Pharma, he said today. Five other states — Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas — also announced lawsuits today against the company.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under age 50, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One Nevadan dies on average each day from drug overdose, Laxalt said.

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