Thursday, July 12, 2001

Va. OxyContin suit derided

By Amanda York
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A class-action suit filed in Lee County, Va., against the Connecticut-based manufacturer of the painkiller OxyContin is “irresponsible, unfounded and legally flawed,” an attorney representing Purdue Pharma said Wednesday in a news release.

        The suit was filed June 15 in the circuit court for Lee County.

        Since May, lawsuits have been filed in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio against the company.

        William Eskridge, the Abingdon, Va., lawyer representing the Stamford, Conn.-based company, said his client would ask to have the case dismissed. One reason: Virginia does not permit class-action lawsuits, the Purdue Pharma statement said.

        The attorneys who filed the suit — Emmitt Yeary, Strother Smith, Debra Stewart and Neil L. Henrichsen — dismissed the response, saying they weren't surprised and expected it.

        “It is consistent with their denying and failing to recognize the reality, which is ... the problem they have created,” Mr. Yeary, an Abingdon lawyer, said.

        Mr. Eskridge also said the suit was an attempt to “demonize Purdue Pharma and exploit the adverse publicity surrounding OxyContin, which will only end up hurting legitimate pain patients.”

        “Any attempt by lawyers to try and dictate to patients and physicians what medication they should have is an affront to sound medical care,” Mr. Eskridge said.

        The suit does not seek to have the painkiller, which is often administered to cancer patients, taken off the market, Mr. Strother said. The plaintiffs were administered the drug inappropriately, he said.

        Abingdon was one of the first areas to see abuse of the painkiller. Mr. Yeary said “countless” families in Virginia had been “destroyed” by abuse of OxyContin.


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