By Michelle L. Price
Nevada’s attorney general expanded the state’s lawsuit against the maker of the opioid OxyContin on Monday to include the company’s former president, his family, other drugmakers, distributors and drugstores, including Walgreens, CVS and Walmart.
The lawsuit naming more than 40 defendants is one of the most wide-ranging among the 49 states suing drugmakers and others over the painkiller epidemic. Most of the defendants are facing at least some legal claims filed by other states and thousands of other lawsuits filed by local and tribal governments, but Nevada is one of the few states to wrap them all into one wide-ranging lawsuit.
“These companies lied to us. And thousands of people have died because of their greed,” Attorney General Aaron Ford said at a news conference.
Ford said that while OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP “opened the door” to the opioid crisis, “the rest of these defendants busted the door wide open” and orchestrated “a conspiracy up and down the supply chain to flood our communities with dangerous and addictive drugs.”
The civil lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating state laws about deceptive trade practices, false claims, racketeering, negligence and public nuisance.
Nevada now becomes one of about a dozen states to specifically accuse Richard Sackler, the former leader of Purdue, and members of his family, of being culpable in the family-owned business’s practices.
The state alleges members of the family directed sales tactics, worked to avoid liability and profit off the addition to opioids.
Nevada also alleges Purdue and other opioid makers deceptively marketed their products and misled the public about the addictiveness of the drugs, while distributors ignored suspicious order of opioids and funneled millions of pills into the state.
Drugmakers and distributors worked together to thwart regulators, the lawsuit also alleges.
Walgreens declined to comment on the lawsuit. Phone and email seeking comment from Walmart, CVS and members of the Sackler family were not returned.
The lawsuit originally filed last year by Ford’s predecessor Adam Laxalt accused Purdue of using deceptive marketing to boost sales of the of drug, driving opioid overdose deaths and violating a 2007 settlement with Nevada, 25 other states and the District of Columbia.
The expanded lawsuit comes as Nevada officials say they have been investigating other opioid makers and distributors.
Purdue, based in Stamford, Connecticut, has denied the claims and is defending itself in the lawsuit.
The company did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million to settle the lawsuits in 2007. In that case, the company was accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.
Other Nevada counties and cities are pursuing their own legal actions separately against the drugmaker and other parties.