AG Derek Schmidt: Kansas sues Purdue Pharma over unlawful marketing of opioids

Kansas has sued Purdue Pharma, alleging that the drug company engaged in unlawful practices in the marketing of its opioid products including OxyContin, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.

The lawsuit, filed today in Shawnee County District Court, seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. It alleges that Purdue repeatedly made false and deceptive claims that its opioid products were safe and suitable for a wide range of pain patients and that Purdue failed to support its claims with adequate medical research. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Purdue falsely claimed:

Its opioid products posed a low risk of addiction.
Symptoms of addiction were in fact only “pseudoaddiction” indicating the need for more opioids.

Long-term opioid use improved patients’ quality of life and function.

Opioids were suitable for vulnerable groups such as elderly patients and veterans.

In 2007, Purdue and three of its top executives pleaded guilty to felony and misdemeanor criminal charges of misbranding OxyContin in violation of federal law. The lawsuit filed today alleges that despite that plea agreement, Purdue continued to make false, unconscionable, deceptive, and misleading claims about its opioid products including OxyContin.

From 1999 to 2017, almost 218,000 people died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids are the single leading cause of accidental death in the United States, with overdoses killing an estimated 130 Americans every day.

According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, prescription opioids are a leading cause of drug poisoning deaths in Kansas with between 70 and 120 people dying from opioid poisoning annually over the past decade.

The rise in opioid use has contributed to many abusers turning to heroin, fentanyl and other illicit drugs, fueling a five-fold increase in heroin overdoses nationally from 2010 to 2017.

In addition to Kansas, four other states today filed lawsuits against Purdue and related individuals or entities. For months, Schmidt and other attorneys general have been investigating Purdue and other opioid manufacturers and distributors. At the same time, the attorneys general have engaged in ongoing settlement negotiations with the company in coordination with a multidistrict litigation overseen by U.S. District Judge Dan Polster in Ohio. Those negotiations are ongoing.

A copy of the attorney general’s petition filed today may be found at