AUSTIN, Texas - The State of Texas has filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over their marketing practices of opioid painkillers.
Attorney General Ken Paxton said the pharmaceutical company violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by misrepresenting the risk of addiction associated with prescription opioids.
“Just after graduating from high school, I was diagnosed with a bone tumor on my left femur and I went into surgery and afterwards they sent me home with a bottle of 80 Vicodin,” said recovering addict Joseph Gorordo.
At just 18 years old, Gorordo had no idea how addicting the medicine his doctor prescribed could be.
“Nobody ever gave me any kind of disclaimer telling me that I might want to be careful with those,” said Joseph.
Just one year later, Joseph had lost his job, dropped out of school and started shooting heroin.
“There was a lot of suffering there that might not have had to happen if I wasn't sent home with a ton of opiates, or maybe if I was given some education about what it could lead to,” Gorordo said.
Joseph was able to get help and turn his life around ten years ago, but far too many are not.
“According to the National Institute of Health 1,375 Texans died of an opioid-related overdose in 2016 alone,” said Paxton.
Paxton said Purdue Pharma is partially to blame for the death toll numbers because the pharmaceutical company deceived health care providers by not telling them how addictive opioid painkillers are.
“In the face of abundant evidence showing the drug was dangerous and that long-term use could lead to addiction, Purdue saw fit to exchange destroyed lives for financial gain,” said Paxton.
Paxton's office filed a lawsuit against Purdue in Travis County District Court on Tuesday.
“I personally have had friends that have lost sons and daughters and I don't want to continue to have to hear stories about the horrific loss that many Texans have suffered,” Paxton said.
“That story is way more common than it should be,” said Gorordo.
Joseph has felt that pain first hand and, since he's started working at Recovery Unplugged, he sees clients struggling with opioid addiction on a daily basis.
“It's getting worse and worse. We're seeing clients younger and younger,” said Joseph.
That’s why he agrees it's time to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable and help put an end to the opioid epidemic that has taken so many lives.
“Addiction can be the last chapter of your story, or it can be the first chapter of the second half of your story,” Gorordo said.
In response to the lawsuit, Purdue Pharma released this statement:
"We are disappointed that after months of good faith negotiations working toward a meaningful resolution to help the State of Texas address the opioid crisis, the attorney general has unilaterally decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process.
We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense."
Paxton said his office is still looking into whether other pharmaceutical companies violated the law with their marketing practices.
Five other states also filed a similar suit against Purdue Tuesday.