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Sean D. Reyes
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Utah Escalates Legal Action Against Purdue Pharma

January 30, 2019

State seeks administrative relief for misleading marketing practices by OxyContin producer

SALT LAKE CITY – Today, the Utah Attorney General’s Office filed an administrative action against Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma Inc., The Purdue Frederick Company, Richard Sackler, M.D., and Kathe Sackler, M.D., as part of the State’s efforts to hold accountable the opioid companies and individuals that created and fueled the opioid epidemic throughout Utah.

In the filing, under Utah Code § 13-2-6, the Division of Consumer Protection of the Department of Commerce issued an administrative action, in the form of a citation, against the defendants alleging violations of the Utah Consumer Sales Practices Act. An administrative proceeding allows the State to seek to prove its claims and obtain a judgment, injunctive relief, and civil penalties more promptly than state district court proceedings.

Based on evidence that has emerged over the last year, this administrative action alleges that not only Purdue, but two of its owners, Richard and Kathe Sackler, participated in Purdue’s fraudulent conduct.

“We are committed to achieving the best results for the State of Utah and pursuing all legal avenues appropriate to hold the companies and individuals that created this crisis accountable,” said Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “After seeing multiple media reports about Purdue retaining restructuring counsel, we decided that filing an administrative action is in the best interest of the people of Utah. This action allows us to expedite legal proceedings against Purdue and the named executives, who we allege incited and participated in the deceptive sales and marketing tactics that ultimately led to an epidemic of prescription opioid abuse in our state.”

“The administrative process, which the Division of Consumer Protection regularly uses, will provide prompt and full consideration of the State’s claims,” added AG Reyes. “Our families, health care professionals, first responders, and law enforcement officers know the urgency of the opioid epidemic. As we recognized when we filed suit, and in the several months since then, we don’t have more time to lose. Meanwhile, we are continuing to investigate other potential wrongdoers.”

Concurrent with this action, the state dismissed without prejudice the civil litigation it filed against Purdue Pharma in Carbon County last May, which means the State may refile against Purdue Pharma for the same circumstance at a later day. This action will not preclude Utah from filing lawsuits in district court against other defendants.
In addition to today’s actions, Utah continues to participate in investigations against other entities. Attorney General Reyes and a bipartisan group of more than 40 other state attorneys general have been aggressively investigating the extent to which entire opioid industry – manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies – engaged in unlawful practices. Purdue Pharma alone faces hundreds of lawsuits by government entities while other investigations remain ongoing. The State of Utah continues to investigate further lawsuits against additional defendants.
In Utah, non-fatal opioid costs to the state are approximately $524 million annually, according to research from the American Enterprise Institute. From 2013 to 2015, Utah ranked 7th highest in the nation for drug overdose deaths.
In May 2018, Attorney General Sean Reyes said, “Purdue Pharma manufactured one of the deadliest combinations in the history of our nation—OxyContin and lies. That lethal cocktail has led to a national public health crisis of epic proportions…. While Purdue’s executives got rich, Utah was plunged into a national public health crisis.”

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1. A legal briefing on background concerning this matter will be held at 1:30pm and 2:30pm today in the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Call Chief of Staff Ric Cantrell at 801-230-9890 for more information.
2. You can review a copy of the administrative action here. The large number of redactions in the document are information subject to a protective order in multi-district litigation which is ongoing in the United State District Court for the Northern District of Ohio.   
3. These administrative claims are not dependent on other counties’ or states’ lawsuits and will proceed immediately while the district court claims have been stayed.  Complex civil litigation takes years. The administrative claims should be adjudicated within 6 months.