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August 27, 2005 Drug Maker Named in Lawsuits Over OxyContin By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
About 1,000 people filed separate lawsuits on Staten Island against the manufacturer of the painkiller OxyContin yesterday, claiming they were victims of accidental addiction.
The plaintiffs are seeking damages from the maker, Purdue Pharma, which is based in Stamford, Conn., claiming the company dishonestly marketed the pain pill by failing to tell doctors, pharmacists and patients about the drug's addictive qualities, according to an attorney in the case, Tor Hoerman.
A state judge on Staten Island recently declined to certify a class-action suit, saying the cases involved different issues and injury claims. Instead, a coordinating judge in New York State Supreme Court was assigned to preside over each case.
Fourteen cartons containing the lawsuits were dropped off at the courthouse by lawyers yesterday. It took six hours for four court employees to process the materials and assign index numbers to each lawsuit.
Similar lawsuits against Purdue Pharma have been filed elsewhere in the country and others are pending, Mr. Hoerman said. "We hope we can finally let a jury hear this case to bring justice for these victims," he said. We feel there is misconduct here."
A Purdue Pharma spokesman, Timothy Bannon, said the company would vigorously defend each of the cases and fully expected to prevail.
"Over the last four years, Purdue Pharma has never lost an OxyContin personal-injury lawsuit," Mr. Bannon said in a statement. "On the contrary, 365 personal-injury lawsuits involving well over 1,000 plaintiffs, including many cases brought by these same personal-injury lawyers, have ended in Purdue's favor. We expect these new cases will be no different."
Those cases have either been dismissed by the court or withdrawn by the plaintiffs. No case has resulted in a verdict against Purdue, although in November 2004, the manufacturer reached an out-of-court settlement with the West Virginia state attorney general's office, which had filed a lawsuit in 2001.
OxyContin, which won federal approval in 1995, is prescribed for patients with terminal cancer and others with chronic pain but became a target for abusers who figured out how to use it for a quick, heroin-like high. Purdue Pharma has said it was not responsible for problems caused by OxyContin abuse because the drug is safe and effective when used as intended.