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California Counties Sue Five Drug Manufacturers Over Prescription Drug Abuse

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Two California counties have sued five drug manufacturers, accusing them of causing the country’s prescription drug abuse epidemic. The suit alleges the companies waged a “campaign of deception” in order to increase painkiller sales.

The Los Angeles Times reports Orange and Santa Clara counties filed the suit Wednesday. Both counties have seen an increase in overdose deaths, emergency room visits and increased medical costs linked to prescription drug abuse. According to the suit, the drug companies violated California laws against false advertising, unfair business practices and creating a public nuisance.

The lawsuit alleges the companies profited by making doctors believe the benefits of narcotic painkillers outweighed the risks, despite “a wealth of scientific evidence to the contrary.” The lawsuit contends the companies’ efforts “opened the floodgates” for these drugs and “the result has been catastrophic.”

According to the suit, the companies ran a marketing campaign to encourage patients, including the elderly and well-insured veterans, to ask their doctors for painkillers for conditions ranging from headaches to back pain and arthritis. The suit says the widespread prescribing of narcotic painkillers has created “a population of addicts,” and led to a resurgence of heroin use.

Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas said the goal of the suit is “to stop the lies about what these drugs do.” It seeks compensation for damages allegedly caused by the painkillers. It also seeks a court order to force the drug manufacturers to forfeit revenue based on the marketing campaign.

The companies named in the suit are Actavis, Endo Health Solutions Inc., Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Purdue Pharma, and Cephalon Inc.

“We’re committed to responsible promotion, prescribing and use of all our medications,” said Robyn Reed Frenze, a spokeswoman for Janssen Pharmaceuticals. She said her company was reviewing the case. Representatives for the other companies either declined to comment or were not immediately available.

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