The attorney general of Kentucky is filing a lawsuit against Endo International PLC, accusing the pharmaceutical company of deception and false advertising that fueled the rise of drug overdoses in the state.
Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear's Lawsuit
According to Attorney General Andy Beshear, Endo has overstated the benefits of using Opana ER while belittling its actual risks. The company's painkiller drug, Beshear says, is putting more people in the state of Kentucky at risk of opioid addiction.
Beshear adds that Endo has been more concerned about its profits than the health and safety of the people.
"My office refuses to sit back and watch families be torn apart while opioid manufacturers like Endo line their pockets at the expense of our communities and our future," says Beshear.
Endo, on the other hand, has denied the accusations and still believes in the safety of its product. The pharmaceutical company says it intends to "vigorously defend" itself against the claims put forth in the lawsuit.
Endo is facing a series of similar accusations by the states of Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri and Mississippi.
Opana ER is an opioid-based medication used for the management of moderate to severe pain. The main ingredient in Opana ER is oxymorphone, a powerful semi-synthetic opioid analgesic produced from a constituent of the opium poppy, called thebaine. Oxymorphone is highly addictive and in 2011, it was responsible for about 23 percent of overdose cases, the lawsuit claims.
Recently this year, the Food and Drug Administration requested for the drug to be removed from the market. After about a month, Endo agreed to withdraw its painkiller medication and stressed that its decision to do so was not as a result of any findings indicating that the product was ineffective or unsafe.
Despite removing Opana ER from the market, Endo managed to reach an agreement with a competitor to split the profits of a generic version of the drug.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were responsible for more than 33,000 overdose deaths that occurred in 2015, and that number still continues to rise.
Recently the CDC released another report that shows the number of overdose deaths rising from 16.3 percent per 100,000 people in the fourth quarter of 2015 to 19.8 per 100,000 people in 2016.
Robert Anderson, chief of CDC's mortality statistics unit, said the increase in the number of deaths is driven by synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. Fentanyl is also an opioid pain medication that is 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine.