A judge is weighing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma filed by the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. Purdue Pharma is the maker of OxyContin, a powerful prescription opioid.
Judge Janet Sanders heard arguments from both sides at a lengthy hearing on Friday in Boston’s Suffolk Superior Court.
The lawsuit filed by Healey alleges that Purdue used aggressive and deceptive marketing tactics to sell its opioids despite knowing the risk of addiction. Their marketing tactics, the lawsuit argues, fueled the opioid epidemic.
The hearing with Sanders lasted six hours. Three assistant attorney generals argued for the state. Healey remained in the courtroom for the entire hearing.
Purdue Pharma had a team of more than a dozen attorneys. The Sackler family, owner of Purdue Pharma, was also in the courtroom as well as some company directors and officers.
Judge Sanders reminded both sides that the hearing was not about determining facts, but rather, to decide on whether the case meets the legal standards to move forward.
Purdue’s lawyers argued that Healey’s 200+ page lawsuit was “full of hyperbole.” They argued that the company is trying to solve the opioid epidemic. Purdue’s legal team also pointed to statistics which show that most overdose deaths in the state were due to illicit drug use, not prescription opioids. They also pointed to federal data which showed that only a small percentage of the opioids in the state were from Purdue.
The state argued that Purdue directors and officers had profited from aggressive sales and marketing tactics of their opioid drug. According to the attorneys, company sales representatives made more than 150,000 visits to doctors in the state in order to get them to prescribe opioids. They did this, the state argued, while knowing that the drugs were highly addictive and leading to overdoses.
About 200 demonstrators stood outside the court during the hearing, holding photos and signs of people who died of overdoses.
Judge Sanders noted that she’ll likely offer separate rulings, and that some of the issues will take her more time to decide.