Julia Roberts Goad
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 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.
“This drug is a scourge brought on Eastern Kentucky,” Judge Executive Wayne T. Rutherford said. He explained that, after he attended several funerals in the county of young people who had died as a result of Oxycontin addiction, he and Sheriff Charles Fuzzy Keesee vowed to do what they could to fight drug abuse in the county.
“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.
In 2007, the drug-maker and three executives pleaded guilty in federal court in Virginia to criminal charges for misleading regulators, doctors and consumers about the addictive risks of Oxycontin. Purdue and its parent company agreed to pay $634 million in fines, the third-highest amount ever paid by a drug-maker for this type of violation.
In 2007, shortly after the case was filed, Purdue Pharma removed the case to the Southern District of New York, where it has been stayed for nearly four years. After vigorously advocating for Kentucky’s interest in this case, General Conway’s office was successful in its efforts to bring the case back to Kentucky.
“They came here, where we have coal miners and other occupations that cause a lot of injuries and pain, and look what happened,” Judge Rutherford said about the drug that has been called ‘hillbilly heroin’.
“This is an important event, not just for the residents of Pike County, but all Kentuckians whose lives have been torn apart from the effects of this powerful and highly addictive narcotic,” Rutherford said in a statement. “This company has to be held responsible for their wrongdoing. This suit is not about money, but rather the people who have been affected and seen first-hand the devastation this drug has wrought on Kentucky.”