Oklahoma Sues Opioid Painkiller Makers -- Update

Oklahoma became the latest state to file a lawsuit against opioid painkiller makers, alleging they caused widespread addiction by misrepresenting the benefits and addictive risks of their drugs.

The lawsuit, filed in state court, targets the parent companies and subsidiaries of Purdue Pharma L.P., Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. and Allergan PLC.

"Over a period of several years, defendants executed massive and unprecedented marketing campaigns through which they misrepresented the risks of addiction from their opioids and touted unsubstantiated benefits," the lawsuit alleges. "The damage defendants' false and deceptive marketing campaigns caused to the state of Oklahoma is catastrophic." The state is seeking damages and penalties to compensate it for costs related to addiction.

Purdue, which sells the painkiller OxyContin, said: "While we vigorously deny the allegations in the complaint, we share the attorney general's concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions."

Johnson & Johnson, whose subsidiary Janssen sells the opioid drug Duragesic, said: "We recognize opioid abuse is a serious public health issue that must be addressed. At the same time, we firmly believe Janssen has acted responsibly and in the best interests of patients and physicians."

Allergan, which sells the painkillers Kadian and Norco, said "it has a history of supporting -- and continues to support -- the safe, responsible use of prescription medications," including opioids and said the drugs "play an appropriate role in pain relief for millions of Americans" when used correctly.

Teva didn't immediately respond to requests for comment. In response to similar lawsuits previously filed by Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri, Teva said it was "committed to the appropriate promotion and use of opioids." Teva sells the opioid drugs Actiq and Fentora.

The state lawsuits come amid mounting public concern over opioid addiction, which has helped drive U.S. overdose rates to all-time highs.

Many people became addicted by taking powerful opioid painkillers and often progressed to heroin if they couldn't get access to pills. Public-health officials have long blamed aggressive company marketing and lax prescribing for sparking the crisis.

Write to Jeanne Whalen at jeanne.whalen@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 30, 2017 16:25 ET (20:25 GMT)