Massachusetts sued the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin and its executives Tuesday, accusing the company of fueling the deadly drug abuse crisis by spinning a “web of illegal deceit” to boost profits.
The lawsuit — which the state’s attorney general says is the first to call out the names of company executives in connection with opioid deaths — comes as Purdue Pharma is already defending against lawsuits from several other states and local governments.
"Purdue Pharma and its executives built a multi-billion-dollar business based on deception and addiction. We’re suing," Attorney General Maura Healey tweeted Tuesday.
The Massachusetts lawsuit names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue.
"Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died."
The lawsuit alleges Purdue played down the risks of opioids and pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drugs longer while aggressively targeting vulnerable populations, like the elderly and veterans.
"Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died," Healey said.
Purdue has "vigorously" denied the allegations.
"We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions.”
Massachusetts’ lawsuit, which was filed in the Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Purdue’s leadership encouraged the company’s "deadly misconduct" while lining their pockets. The sale of more than 70 million doses of prescription opioids in the state over the last decade brought in more than $500 million for the company, Healey says.
"It was Purdue’s executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few while leaving a path of devastation and destruction in its wake," Healey said.
According to Healey, more than 670 Massachusetts residents have died from Purdue’s opioids since 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.