JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced plans Tuesday to sue five major pharmaceutical companies and four distributors as part of a crackdown on the opioid epidemic contributing to a surge in overdose-related deaths.
At a news conference held in Tampa, Bondi accused drug manufacturers of deliberately misleading consumers and physicians about the dangers of the highly-addictive opioids and not disclosing the serious risks involved with them.
She said distributors shipped excessively high volumes of opioid drugs to customers in Florida and failed to report suspiciously large orders. In doing so, she said, they ignored their legal obligations and prioritized profits over public safety.
"We are in the midst of a national opioid crisis claiming 175 lives a day nationally and 15 lives a day in Florida, and I will not tolerate anyone profiting from the pain and suffering of Floridians," said Bondi. "The complaint I filed today seeks to hold some of the nation's largest opioid manufacturers and distributors responsible for their role in this crisis and seeks payment for the pain and destruction their actions have caused Florida in its citizens."
Florida joined five other states -- Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas -- filing complaints of unfair and deceptive trade practices against Purdue, which manufactures the opioid drug OxyContin.
Purdue, based in Stamford, Connecticut, denied the claims and vowed to defend itself in an emailed statement provided by a company spokesperson.
The lawsuits come about a month after a change-of-course by a federal judge in Cleveland who had been encouraging companies and states to settle hundreds of lawsuits filed by local governments alleging overuse of prescription opioid painkillers.
The judge has scheduled three trials in Ohio beginning next year.
Purdue Pharma did not admit wrongdoing when it paid $19.5 million in 2007 to settle lawsuits with 26 states and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction. Nevada, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas were part of that agreement. Florida and North Dakota were not.