FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: February 14, 2018
WHO: The Honorable Kim G. Dunning, Orange County Superior Court
WHAT: Overruled the defense’s demurrer motions to the People’s Fourth Amended Complaint in People v. Purdue Pharma et al. The court formally lifted a stay of the case at a hearing on Jan. 26, 2018.
WHEN: Yesterday, Feb. 13, 2018
BACKGROUND: In 2014, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) and the County of Santa Clara filed a consumer protection action against five of the world’s largest manufacturers of prescription opioids for deceptive marketing practices. The lawsuit is the first of its kind filed in the United States and alleges opioid manufacturers deceptively marketed narcotic painkillers for long-term health conditions. The Complaint alleges the defendants’ deceptive marketing misled doctors and the public by minimizing the risks and overstating the benefits of opioids for chronic pain conditions. Other jurisdictions have followed the OCDA’s example and over 400 similar lawsuits have been filed across the United States on behalf of counties, cities, and states.
According to Orange County Health Care Agency’s 2017 report, “Drug overdose is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S., causing more deaths than auto accidents or gun deaths. An estimated 7 of every 10 drug overdose deaths in Orange County 2011-2015 was due to opioids.”
The OCDA suit alleges this epidemic was fueled in part by marketing to doctors. On Feb. 10, 2018, Purdue Pharma Inc., the maker of OxyContin, one of the primary drivers of the opioid epidemic as alleged in the Complaint, announced it would cut its sales force in half and cease direct marketing of opioid products to doctors going forward.
District Attorney Tony Rackauckas stated, “We all know someone who has been directly affected by this epidemic that has touched young and old and all demographics. The OCDA will continue to fight for the health and safety of Orange County citizens in this and other Consumer Protection actions.”