Thursday, June 14, 2001

OxyContin manufacturer 'surprised' by W.Va. suit

By Amanda York
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Purdue Pharma, the Connecticut-based manufacturer of the painkiller OxyContin, said in a statement Wednesday that the company was “very surprised and disappointed” by claims raised by the West Virginia Attorney General's Office.

        A lawsuit, filed by the attorney general on Monday, alleges that the company marketed the drug in such a way that physicians overprescribed it, or prescribed it in instances when “it was not called for.”

        OxyContin is a Schedule II narcotic with the active ingredient oxycodone. The drug, which is supposed to be used for moderate to severe pain, is taken by many terminally ill cancer patients.

        Purdue's statement said the company is concerned the suit could limit the ability of West Virginians to receive the drug. The statement also claimed West Virginia officials changed their stance. The state had met in March with the company, and Purdue said officials seemed receptive to a 10-point plan to reduce abuse of the drug without legal intervention.

        “OxyContin is an important product that provides good pain relief for thousands of chronic pain sufferers in West Virginia,” said Michael Friedman, chief operating officer of Purdue Pharma.

        West Virginia's Medicaid program paid $4.6 million — or 2 percent of the state's Medicaid budget for 2000 — to pay OxyContin claims.

        Attempts to reach a spokesman at the West Virginia Attorney General's Office were unsuccessful.

        The statement called the March meeting with West Virginia officials “productive,” and said Purdue was under the impression that the West Virginia's Attorney General's Office seemed to favor the company's program.

        “Solving the public health problem of prescription drug abuse will require cooperation, not confrontation,” Mr. Friedman said.

        Pennsylvania and Virginia — two states that have also dealt with OxyContin abuse — have agreed to cooperate with Purdue on finding ways to decrease abuse.

        Kentucky's attorney general and Ohio's attorney general are reviewing the West Virginia lawsuit, but neither office would say whether it planned to file suit against Purdue.


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