Montana’s Lawsuit against Purdue Pharma Returns to State Court

Montana achieved an important victory last Thursday when a federal judge in Ohio remanded the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma from federal court and returned it to state court, where the Attorney General’s Office filed it originally.

In December of 2017, Attorney General Tim Fox filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, alleging the company engaged in deceptive promotion of its addictive and dangerous painkiller OxyContin to increase sales. In February of this year, Fox filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Montana District Court, asking the court to halt Purdue’s product marketing campaign in the state. In March, in an apparent effort to delay the case and avoid answering Montana’s motion for a preliminary injunction, Purdue moved the case to federal court.

“I am pleased the judge sent this case back to a Montana court, where it belongs,” Attorney General Fox said. “As our investigation revealed and our complaint alleges, Purdue Pharma has knowingly and deceptively harmed Montanans, and so we will be moving this case forward with vigor and diligence.”

With the case back in Lewis and Clark County District Court (Judge Mike Menahan), Montana’s original request for a preliminary injunction is once again pending.

Montana’s lawsuit alleges Purdue has:

• Misrepresented the likelihood that long-term use of its drug would lead to addiction;
• Falsely claimed that use of OxyContin would improve overall health quality, and failed to disclose the harmful side effects caused by long-term opioid use;
• Falsely claimed long-term opioid use is safe and effective pain treatment, even though Purdue had no evidence to prove it;
• Told prescribers that OxyContin works for 12 hours, even though Purdue knew that it did not for many patients, requiring frequent increases in dosage, thus increasing the likelihood of addiction;
• Claimed that its new generation of abuse-deterrence opioids were safer and would prevent abuse and diversion, when Purdue knew that the drugs were still readily abused;
• And falsely claimed that opioids are safer than alternative, non-narcotic treatment.

The lawsuit seeks:

1. Injunctive relief to stop Purdue’s deceptive marketing practices;
2. Damages for, and abatement of, the public health epidemic that Purdue has created;
3. Three times the amount of damages sustained by the state in paying for opioids for first-line treatment of chronic pain and treating the adverse effects of opioid use through Montana Medicaid Program and the Montana Healthcare Plan;
4. Damages, including punitive damages, for money spent by the state as a result of Purdue’s conduct;
5. Disgorgement of Purdue’s unjustified profit; and
6. The maximum civil penalties allowed for each violation of the law, along with any other injunctive and equitable relief within the court’s powers to redress and halt Purdue’s unlawful practices.

The lawsuit filed by Attorney General Fox is a civil enforcement action taken against Purdue for ongoing violation of multiple Montana consumer protection laws. It is not a class action suit on behalf of individual plaintiffs affected by Purdue’s product.