Pubdate: Sun, 30 Aug 2015
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2015 The Orange County Register
Author: Kelly Puente


A judge has halted a lawsuit brought by Orange and Santa Clara 
counties accusing the nation's largest narcotics manufacturers of 
deceptive marketing that caused an epidemic of addiction and overdoses.

The lawsuit filed last year by Orange County District Attorney Tony 
Rackauckas claims five pharmaceutical companies spent millions to 
convince the public that drugs meant only for short-term use by 
cancer patients should be taken for chronic pain.

But in a hearing on Thursday, Orange County Superior Court Judge 
Robert J. Moss sided, in part, with the drug companies, ruling that 
the Federal Drug Administration has the ultimate authority to 
determine the safety of prescription drugs.

"The court does not shrink from its responsibilities to handle 
complex, convoluted litigation; it handles such matters every day of 
the week," Moss wrote. "It does, however, take pause at involving 
itself in an area which is best left to agencies such as the FDA who 
are designed to address such issues."

Moss dismissed the suit "without prejudice" provided the drug 
companies involved agree to allow the counties to revive it once the 
FDA makes its decision and wave a statute of limitations capping when 
it could be reopened. He also is requiring the companies to agree 
that the counties would not lose any eventual possible monetary 
awards by halting the suit.

The lawsuit names Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, 
Janssen Pharmaceuticals  a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson  Endo 
Health Solutions, and Actavis, as well as affiliated companies.

"We are pleased Judge Moss agreed that complex scientific issues 
regarding the treatment of chronic pain are best decided by the FDA, 
the agency with relevant expertise," Purdue, the makers of Oxycontin, 
said in a statement.

Rackauckas, who argued before the judge on Thursday, said he filed 
the lawsuit in an effort to hold the drug companies accountable for 
an "epidemic of addiction."

The lawsuit claims that the marketing campaign changed prescription 
opioids from a niche drug to an $8 billion industry by 2010 and 
contributed to more than 16,000 overdose deaths that same year, 
putting profits above health.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 
prescription opioids contributed to 16,651 overdose deaths nationally 
in 2010 - more than twice as many deaths as heroin and cocaine 
combined. In Orange County alone there is an opioid-related death, on 
average, every other day.

"It's a problem here in our county and it's certainly a problem 
statewide and nationwide," Rackauckas said in an interview Friday. 
"These companies are making greater and greater profits and the 
people who are paying for it are the addicts and the people who die 
from addiction, and their loved ones."

While the case could be reopened, Rackauckas said he's exploring his 
legal options in the meantime.

Staff writer Tony Saavedra contributed to this report.
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