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TN Attorney General: FDA Approved OxyContin Labels, not OxyContin Maker's 'Deception'

The makers of the deadly and addictive drug OxyContin can’t hide behind the Food and Drug Administration to fend off legal responsibility for the opioid epidemic that has claimed the lives of thousands of Tennesseans, the state’s attorney general contends.

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III earlier this year filed a lawsuit in Knox County Circuit Court against Purdue Pharma, seeking to hold the drug maker legally and financially responsible for the opioid epidemic plaguing the state and its citizens.

Purdue, though, argued in a motion filed last week OxyContin and the other opioids it makes and markets are FDA-approved and its packaging includes FDA-approved warnings and advisories.

Attorney William J. Harbison insisted in the motion states such as Tennessee have no legal authority to sue Purdue because federal law – and FDA rules and regulations – trump any state consumer protection or public nuisance laws.

State: FDA isn't the problem

But Senior Assistant Attorney General Brant Harrell this week fought back on behalf of Tennessee’s taxpayers. Harrell said the state has no quarrel with the FDA’s approval of OxyContin or its rules and regulations on the drug’s uses. It is Purdue’s allegedly deceptive and aggressive marketing of the drug the state seeks to expose, Harrell wrote.

“The state does not challenge the content of FDA-approved labels; to the contrary, it is Purdue’s conduct that is at issue,” Harrell wrote.

The attorney general’s lawsuit says Purdue promised in a 2007 settlement inked by Slatery’s predecessor to quit lying about OxyContin, stop “aggressively” pushing doctors to prescribe it, report over-prescribing doctors to authorities and help doctors better identify addicted patients.

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