Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is suing more than a dozen U.S. drug manufacturers.
The lawsuit names Purdue Pharma, Inc., Allergan PLC, Cephalon, Inc., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. among other companies. It was filed in Cleveland County District Court Friday morning.
The suit argues the companies were "deceptive" and "misleading" when marketing opioids to Oklahoma doctors, by exaggerating the drugs’ effectiveness and downplaying the danger of opioid addiction.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescription opioids have more than quadrupled in the U.S. since 1999.
In the last three years, there have been nearly 3,000 overdose deaths in Oklahoma, according to Hunter.
“We just can’t let companies dehumanize the population in the way that these [companies] have,” Hunter said at a press conference Friday. “You almost feel like these deaths are just statistics on a spreadsheet [to the companies.]”
Hunter said the opioid crisis has cost Oklahoma millions of dollars in healthcare and law enforcement expenses.
The lawsuit alleges the state of Oklahoma “paid, and continues to pay, millions of dollars for health care costs that stem from prescription opioid dependency.”
“We recognize opioid use is a serious public health issue that must be addressed,” said William Foster, a spokesman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals, in a statement.
“At the same time, we firmly believe Janssen has acted responsibly and in the best interests of patients and physicians with regard to these medicines.”
The lawsuit requests companies reimburse Oklahoma for damages done to consumers and the state, which could total billions of dollars, according to Hunter. It also asks for a declaration that the drug companies’ actions violated state law.
The states of Missouri, Ohio and Mississippi have filed similar lawsuits against many of the same drug manufacturers. The Cherokee nation filed a lawsuit in tribal court in April.