Attorney General William Tong has expanded the state's lawsuit against Stamford opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, laying out new details of the company's aggressive efforts to boost sales in Connecticut while at the same time downplaying concerns about addiction.
The amended complaint also takes aim at news Purdue is considering bankruptcy as an option to limit its liability by seeking to claw back money transferred from the company to its founders, the Sackler family. Tong is seeking a court order to prevent any further transfer of funds.
"Transfer of assets from Purdue to the Sacklers ... were made with actual intent to hinder, delay or defraud present and/or future creditors of Purdue, including the State of Connecticut," lawyers for Tong's office wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court Monday. "When faced with reality that Purdue -- and the Sacklers -- will finally be held accountable ... Purdue has publicly admitted that it cannot pay its threatened liabilities and is threatening to commence bankruptcy proceedings on the eve of a landmark jury trial and in the middle of discovery with dozens of state attorneys general."
Like lawsuits filed in Massachusetts and New York, the Connecticut complaint provides a window into Purdue's efforts to sell the powerful painkiller OxyContin to the public without disclosing its highly addictive properties. Connecticut and the other states said the company's aggressive marketing of the drug, at the direction of the Sackler family, helped create the nation's deadly opioid crisis.
"Perhaps most reprehensibly of all, we have more details of the efforts that Purdue's sales force, at the insistence of the directors, preyed upon and targeted doctors that prescribed to the elderly, to folks like your grandparents and my grandparents who had never before experienced opioids, who were trying to control their arthritic pain," Kimberly Massicotte, a senior attorney in Tong's office who is helping to lead the litigation, said at a news conference Monday.
The amended complaint filed by Tong, parts of which were redacted due to confidentiality concerns, portrays the ways in which company executives sought to transfer blame for the opioid crisis to patients.
"I think this is what shocks me the most: Purdue Pharma peddled this theory, a baseless, discredited theory, that the problem with addiction is 'psuedo-addiction,' " Tong said. "The patients, according to Purdue Pharma, weren't getting enough opioids and that's why they were addicted ... if you just pushed more drugs on these patients, that would solve their pain and they would somehow become less addicted ... the contorted, almost sick thought process behind that confounds me still."
Purdue, in a written statement, dismissed the amended complaint as one of many "misleading attacks" against the company.
"The complaint is part of a continuing effort to try these cases through the media rather than the justice system," the company said. "Such allegations demand clear evidence linking the conduct alleged to the harm described, but we believe the state fails to show such causation to support its sweeping legal claims. ... Purdue Pharma will continue to defend itself in the litigation and continue to fight for balance in the public discourse so that society can simultaneously help pain patients in need and create real solutions to the complex problem of addiction."
Purdue said OxyContin is FDA approved and accounts for less than 2 percent of total opioid prescriptions.