Orange County District Attorney Anthony Rackauckas is going after the makers of OxyContin and other potentially dangerous and addictive prescription drugs, alleging they duped doctors into believing the benefits of time-released, semi-synthetic opioids outweighed the risks.
"As District Attorney, I have the task of protecting the people of Orange County against false advertising and unfair business practices in consumer protection cases," Rackauckas said in a statement this morning explaining the reasons for the suit filed by Orange and Santa Clara counties.
"We have charged these pharmaceutical companies for knowingly harming public health by waging a massive campaign the dangerously addictive nature of opioids, or a class of narcotic prescription painkillers, to expand their market and profit the drugs."
The lawsuit, similar to those lodged against tobacco companies and brought on behalf of the entire state, names Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc. and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries' Cephalon Inc. as defendants.
According to the lawsuit, the latest generation of opium-based painkillers is creating addicts and is partially responsible for a resurgence of heroin use. The Orange County Health Care Agency logged 291 opioid overdoses in 2012 and, according to the Sheriff's Department, deaths from overdoses of prescription drugs rose from 88 in 1999 to 199 in 2012.
The pharmaceutical companies are expected to argue that such drugs are regulated by the Federal Drug Administration, and their efficacy cannot be challenged by state law.
A spokeswoman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals told the Los Angeles Times her company was committed to "responsible promotion, prescribing and use for all our medications" and was reviewing the lawsuit. There were no immediate comments from the other drug makers.
The Santa Clara County district attorney is also a plaintiff in the consumer protection lawsuit.
--City News Service