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Post date: September 13 2007

Cuomo: Drugmaker Pays Ny More Than $7m For Misrepresenting Dangers Of The Narcotic Oxycontin

ALBANY, NY (September 13, 2007) Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York State has received $7.26 million in damages from the makers of OxyContin for misrepresenting the dangers of the drug. The payment, from Purdue Pharma, L.P., and associated entity The Purdue Frederick Company, Inc., comes as a consequence of a federal prosecution that charged the companies with misrepresenting the narcotic painkiller’s potential for abuse and addiction, and an accompanying civil settlement.

“This is a dangerous, deadly drug with a well-documented history of causing addiction in its users,” Attorney General Cuomo said. “Nevertheless, Purdue actively promoted OxyContin as a safe and less-addictive alternative to other painkillers. These payments send a clear message that such abuse of trust in the interest of profit-making will not be tolerated.”

In a federal case prosecuted in the Western District of Virginia, the Purdue Frederick Company and three former or current Purdue executives pleaded guilty in May to charges of knowingly and fraudulently misbranding OxyContin, a time-release version of oxycodone, as being less addictive, less subject to abuse and diversion and less likely to cause tolerance and withdrawal problems than other pain medications.

Pursuant to their written plea agreements and the accompanying civil settlement, Purdue and the executives paid $160 million to federal and state government agencies to resolve liability for resulting costs to state Medicaid and other state- and federally funded programs.

The Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit headed the team charged with negotiating on behalf of the states and distributing the funds to the 46 other participant states, the first of which received their shares today.

Purdue taught sales managers that OxyContin produced less euphoria in users and had less potential for abuse than short-acting opioid medications. Prosecutors alleged that Purdue’s own internal research contradicted these claims. A great deal of highly publicized anecdotal evidence further cast doubt on this characterization of OxyContin.

To illustrate their claims, some Purdue sales representatives used visual aids with physicians to indicate that OxyContin produced fewer “highs and lows” over time in users than other types of pain medications. This inaccurate information about OxyContin via written materials constituted a mislabeling/misbranding of the drug.

Under the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and related regulations, “written, printed, or graphic matter . . . accompanying [a drug]” disseminated by drug manufacturers constitutes part of the drug’s label, and to the extent that information is “false or misleading in any particular,” constitutes misbranding.