Attorney General Jack Conway announced today's decision by the U.S Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit that affirms a lower court's order returning a 2007 lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, to Pike Circuit Court in eastern Kentucky. Shortly after the case was filed, Purdue Pharma removed the case to the Southern District of New York. The two-judge panel today upheld the prior decision of the U.S. District Court, which allowed the Attorney General's motion to proceed with the litigation in Pike Circuit Court where it was originally filed.
"OxyContin is highly addictive and easily abused prescription drug that has wrought tragic consequences throughout the Commonwealth, and Purdue Pharma's misrepresentations about its addictive nature helped fuel an epidemic of prescription pill abuse across Kentucky," General Conway said. "After years of delay tactics, Purdue will now answer to a Kentucky court and a Kentucky jury."
The Commonwealth's lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma misled healthcare providers, consumers and government officials regarding the risk of addiction associated with OxyContin, a schedule II narcotic. The lawsuit seeks reimbursement for costs incurred in drug abuse programs, law enforcement actions, and prescription payments through Medicaid and the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Alliance program. Pike County joined the suit to combat the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, which is blamed for a growing number of overdose deaths across the Commonwealth.
"More Kentuckians are dying from prescription drug overdoses than traffic accidents," General Conway said. "Drug companies that mislead consumers about the nature of their drugs must be held accountable."
Non-medical use or abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States, according to the National Office of Drug Control Policy. In a 2010 Forbes study of the nation's most medicated states, Kentucky ranked fourth. From 1999 to 2004, Kentucky overdose deaths increased 164 percent.
Combating Prescription Drug Abuse
In August of 2009, Attorney General Conway created Kentucky's first and only statewide Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force to increase investigations into prescription drug trafficking, overprescribing physicians, doctor shopping and illegal out-of-state pharmacies. Since then, the task force has been involved in more than 130 prescription drug diversion investigations, including Operation Flamingo Road, Kentucky's largest prescription drug bust that resulted in felony arrest warrants for more than 500 people.
Attorney General Conway also joined with state government and law enforcement partners, as well as concerned parents, to launch a statewide prescription drug abuse prevention and education initiative called Keep Kentucky Kids Safe to alert middle and high school students to the dangers of abusing prescription pills. As part of this effort, General Conway and his partners have spoken to more than 15,000 educators and students across Kentucky.
In addition to his law enforcement and education efforts, General Conway reached across party lines to work closely with Florida's Attorney General Pam Bondi to ensure that Florida implemented an electronic prescription drug monitoring system similar to Kentucky's KASPER system. In April, Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced he would no longer block implementation of the database.
General Conway also helped pass House Bill 1, landmark legislation in Kentucky to help crack down on the prescription pill epidemic.
For more information on the Keep Kentucky Kids Safe program, please visit http://ag.ky.gov/rxabuse