Endo Pharmaceuticals, the company who make the controversial opioid painkiller “Opana ER”, are being sued in Kentucky for fraud and deception. The drug it thought to have caused a sudden rise in overdose deaths in 2016. Attorney General for Kentucky, Andy Beshear said that “Endo put its profits above the lives of our people and above patient safety.” Endo is now facing lawsuits in at least four other states including Missouri, Oklahoma, Ohio and Mississippi.
The lawsuit makes the case that, according to Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy, the active ingredient oxymorphone only caused 2% of overdose deaths between 2010 and 2015. In 2016 death rates rose to a staggering 23%, and the drug Opana ER is thought to be the cause of this sudden increase.
Beshear, the Attorney General claims that the deaths were caused by the irresponsible marketing of Endo Pharmaceuticals, which massively underplayed the risks of the drugs and exaggerated its benefits to patients. “Was Endo worried that people were now addicted to their drug? No. They were worried their profits would decline. They were worried about themselves.” He also says that the company persuaded health professionals and doctors to prescribe the drug to patients when it wasn’t needed. It was later discovered that the drug was being misused by some patients.
Matthew Maletta, Endo’s executive vice president and chief legal officer, defended the companies actions, claiming that “The public statement made by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear today in connection with filing suit against Endo that this organization and its dedicated employees seek to ‘line their pockets at the expense of communities’ is patently offensive. We intend to vigorously defend the company against the claims set forth in this lawsuit.”
This is now the first time Endo’s use of marketing has been questioned. Last year, the Attorney General of New York raised a similar case with the company after it was revealed that they were giving “a false sense of security to health care providers and their patients.” Was also found that “Endo improperly instructed its sales representatives to diminish and distort risks associated with Opana ER, including serious dangers involving addiction.”
These court cases are part of a much more widespread problem amongst drug companies. Earlier this year 41 state attorneys opened investigations into the marketing practices of drug makers including Endo as what seems to be an ongoing problem with fraud and irresponsible marketing.
Endo have confirmed that Opana ER has now been taken off the market; however the active ingredient is still available from other companies who offer a generic version of the drug. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has announced that the agency will be reviewing the safety of the generic drug. Research presented at an FDA meeting earlier in the year suggested that the generic version had the highest abuse rate of any opioid.