State sues opioid manufacturer, alleging willful deception

State adds to list of its opioid lawsuits

The state is suing a major opioid manufacturer, alleging the company minimized the risks of opioids in its marketing campaign for more than a decade.

Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson filed a lawsuit Monday against opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallinckrodt LLC and SpecGX LLC, a Mallinckrodt subsidiary, according to the court filing. The lawsuit accuses Mallinckrodt of not being forthcoming about the risks of addiction with its opioid medications in its messages to prescribers.

“It is no secret that Alaska has been hit hard by the opioid epidemic, and we don’t have time to lose,” Clarkson said in a Monday release from the Alaska Department of Law. “My office is dedicated to taking all appropriate steps to hold accountable those who violate the law and jeopardize our public health and safety.”

From 2011-2017, there have been 582 overdose deaths in Alaska, the lawsuit alleges. From 2013 to 2017, there were 25 opioid overdose deaths in Juneau, according to the Alaska Department of Health and Public Services. In February 2017, former Gov. Bill Walker declared the opioid crisis a public health disaster.

[Local, state leaders gather to confront the opioid crisis]

Based on prescriptions, Mallinckrodt is the largest manufacturer of opioids in the United States, according to the lawsuit. In 2015, Mallinckrodt estimated that it accounted for 25 percent of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) entire annual quota for controlled substances that it manufacturers, according to the suit.

The state claims that Mallinckrodt relayed, and continues to relay, these misleading messages to prescribers, which it has spread through marketing materials, websites and in-person sales calls. The suit even alleges the company sponsored speakers’ programs and professional associations that disseminated the company’s message while appearing independent and credible.

This is quickly coming familiar territory for Alaska and other states. State and city government have been consistently bringing lawsuits against opioid producers.

Alaska’s Attorney General’s Office sued Purdue Pharma, L.P. — the producer of OxyContin — and its corporate family in October 2017, alleging the company misrepresented the risk that patients could become addicted to the drug. A trial is set in that case for March 23, 2020, according to Monday’s release. As of August 2018, 27 states had sued Purdue Pharma, according to Delphi Behavioral Health Group.

In October 2018, Alaska also sued McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Company in October 2018, alleging that the three companies didn’t report or halt suspicious orders.

“This ongoing, fraudulent marketing played a significant role in transforming medical thinking about opioids,” the lawsuit reads, “persuading doctors that the risk of addiction for legitimate pain patients is modest and manageable and outweighed by the benefits in reduced pain and improved quality of life for their patients.”

[State making progress in fight against opioid addiction]

The state asks that a judge declare that Mallinckrodt violated (and continues to violate) the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act (UTPA). The lawsuit also asserts that Mallinckrodt’s actions have created a public nuisance, that Mallinckrodt has acted fraudulently and negligently, and that Mallinckrodt has been unjustly enriched and is liable for its actions. A specific amount of damages was not mentioned in the lawsuit, which was filed in Anchorage Superior Court.




• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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