CA counties sue makers of painkillers

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Two California counties have adopted a new strategy to confront prescription painkiller abuse: a lawsuit. The LA Times reports that Orange and Santa Clara counties have filed a lawsuit against a list of drugmakers that includes Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals, and Endo Health Solutions, among others.

LAT says the text of the lawsuit is “reminiscent of the legal attack against the tobacco industry,” and accuses the drugmakers of “manipulating doctors into believing the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks.”

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas told the LAT that the goal is “to stop the lies about what these drugs do.”

The lawsuit alleges that drugmakers use deceptive marketing practices much like the tobacco industry, such as creating patient advocacy organizations to promote painkillers and write treatment guidelines. These allegations may sound familiar: ProPublica and the Washington Post reported in 2012 that the American Pain Foundation, which received 90% of its funding from drug and device manufacturers, closed up shop, but not before issuing a series of guidelines ProPublica noted downplayed risks associated with opioid medications and exaggerating their benefits.

"These groups, these pain organizations…helped usher in an epidemic that's killed 100,000 people by promoting aggressive use of opioids,” Dr. Andrew Kolodny, chairman of psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, and president of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, told ProPublica at the time.

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