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Maura Healey

Massachusetts sues opioid maker, executives over drug crisis

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By ALANNA DURKIN RICHER

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts sued the maker of prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin and its executives on Tuesday, accusing the company of spinning a "web of illegal deceit" to fuel the deadly drug abuse crisis while boosting profits.

Purdue Pharma is already defending lawsuits from several states and local governments, but Massachusetts is the first state to personally name the company's executives in a complaint, Attorney General Maura Healey said. It names 16 current and former executives and board members, including CEO Craig Landau and members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue.

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FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo, shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Overdoses don't happen just to heroin addicts _ patients who legally use strong painkillers called opioids are at risk in the nation’s epidemic, too. A new study says when patients were prescribed an overdose antidote along with those medications, they made fewer painkiller-related visits to the emergency room. The study released on June 27, 2016, went a step further _ to see if the take-home antidote idea also could work for patients with chronic pain who may not realize they could accidentally get into trouble with prescription painkillers such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and others. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

The lawsuit alleges Purdue deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids, pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drugs longer and aggressively targeted vulnerable populations, like the elderly and veterans.

"Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died," Healey told reporters.

Purdue, based in Stamford, Connecticut, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press, but told The Boston Globe it "vigorously" denies the allegations.

"We share the attorney general's concern about the opioid crisis," the company told the newspaper in a statement." We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process. We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions," it said.

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Purdue agreed to pay $19.5 million in 2007, but did not admit wrongdoing, to settle lawsuits with 26 states — including Massachusetts— and the District of Columbia after being accused of aggressively marketing OxyContin to doctors while downplaying the risk of addiction.

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This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

Massachusetts' lawsuit, which was filed in the Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Purdue's leadership encouraged the company's "deadly misconduct" while lining their pockets. The sale of more than 70 million doses of prescription opioids in the state over the last decade brought in more than $500 million for the company, Healey says.

"It was Purdue's executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few while leaving a path of devastation and destruction in its wake," she said.

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