BOSTON (AP/CBS) — Massachusetts sued the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin and its executives on Tuesday, accusing the company of spinning a “web of illegal deceit” to fuel the deadly drug abuse crisis while boosting profits.
Purdue Pharma is already defending lawsuits from several states and local governments, but Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company’s executives in a complaint, Attorney General Maura Healey said. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue.
The lawsuit alleges Purdue deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids, pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drugs longer and aggressively targeted vulnerable populations, like the elderly and veterans.
“Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died,” Healey told reporters.
Purdue, based in Stamford, Connecticut, said it “vigorously” denies the allegations.
“We share the attorney general’s concern about the opioid crisis,” the company said in a statement. “We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions,” it said.
Purdue agreed to pay $19.5 million in 2007, but did not admit wrongdoing, to settle lawsuits with 26 states — including Massachusetts— and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.
Massachusetts’ lawsuit, which was filed in the Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Purdue’s leadership encouraged the company’s “deadly misconduct” while lining their pockets. The sale of more than 70 million doses of prescription opioids in the state over the last decade brought in more than $500 million for the company, Healey says.
“It was Purdue’s executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few while leaving a path of devastation and destruction in its wake,” she said.
For one father, this lawsuit means the world because he almost lost his. “I love him to death,” Vincent Aliberti said, talking about his son Pierce.
Pierce started getting high when he was just 14-years-old. He took pills and it wasn’t long before he started using heroin.
“When he woke up in the morning it was put a needle in and when he went to bed and he still had a needle in his arm,” Aliberti explained.
His parents, started to fear the unimaginable. “We’d both be crying and I actually talked about which funeral home,” Aliberti said.
Tuesday morning, the fight for families just like the Aliberti’s began. “When you take a highly addictive drug and start putting it through high schools and making it easy to get you know what the end result is going to be,” Aliberti said.
The attorney general also pointed to a board of the names of all the people in Massachusetts who have died since 2008.
“Take a look at those names… all 11,169 of them. Each name is a person who would be who should be alive today. Someone’s father mother son, daughter, brother, sister, grandparent,” she said.
Aliberti knows his son could have been one of those names.
But Pierce, who is now 25-years-old is clean and running several facilities to help others beat addiction.
Aliberti hopes every single state follows suit and those at the very top of Purdue Pharma are brought to justice because even though his family came out on the other end, he knows so many others don’t.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
WBZ-TV’s Lisa Gresci contributed to this report.