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Alaska attorney general sues various opioid manufacturers for alleged deceptive marketing practices

Attorney General Treg Taylor filed a suit against opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating...
Attorney General Treg Taylor filed a suit against opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices Act.(Patrick Sison | AP)
Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 3:14 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor continued the state effort to address Alaska’s opioid epidemic by filing a civil lawsuit Wednesday against various opioid manufacturers.

The attorney general’s office issued a press release Friday stating Taylor filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for allegedly violating the Alaska Unfair Trade Practices Act. The companies sued include Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd., Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Cephalon, Inc., Allergan plc and certain subsidiaries.

According to the release, the manufacturers allegedly engaged in a deceptive marketing campaign that minimized the risks of opioids, especially the risks of addiction to them. It added that manufacturers sought to convince doctors that there was a significant upside to their use for chronic non-cancer pain by exaggerating their supposed benefits.

“While Teva and Allergan profited enormously from their deceptive marketing, the state of Alaska and its residents have experienced the consequences, including responding to the crisis and suffering from opioid addiction and overdose, and opioid-related crime and dislocation,” Taylor said in the press release. “Through this latest civil suit, we seek to hold these companies accountable for their conduct and the harm that they caused — and continue to cause — the state of Alaska, and to abate the public health epidemic that they helped create.”

The suit also alleges that the companies’ dishonest marketing of branded and generic opioids contributed to the change of medical thinking about opioid drugs.

The release noted that Teva and Allergan supplied over 46 million opioid pills into Alaska between 2006 and 2014.

The attorney general’s office said the increased volume of opioid prescriptions that resulted from Teva and Allergan’s marketing strategy correlates with the increased addiction, overdose and death in Alaska. The suit alleges the state’s uptick in cases of addiction has expanded the black market for prescription opioids as well.

“For the last two decades, the opioid epidemic has greatly impacted the lives and wellbeing of our communities,” said Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum in the release.

Crum said that in 2019, Alaska experienced the second-highest rate of overdose deaths in ten years. Opioid overdoses resulted in the death of 105 people that year, according to Crum.

“The impacts extend far beyond lives lost. We see strained criminal justice, public assistance, social service, primary care, behavioral health, and emergency response systems in our communities,” Crum said in the release.

He added that in 2018, drug misuse cost Alaskans $1.06 billion, with at least $69 million due to opioid use disorder and opioid-related incidents.

This is not the first time the state attorney general’s office has sued opioid manufacturers. The office previously sued Purdue Pharma and Mallinckrodt for similar charges. In 2018, the office also filed a lawsuit against McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Company.

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