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Iowa One Of Five States To Sue OxyContin Maker

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma for unlawful marketing practices.

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has announced he is joining four other states in suing pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma and its former chairman, Richard Sackler, for using unlawful practices to sell the opioid painkiller OxyContin.

Miller said the lawsuit, filed in Polk County on Thursday, alleges the Connecticut-based drug maker used what he called "octopus" marketing efforts, and said the company was "everywhere."

"They employed a lot of sales representatives that went to doctors' offices, hospitals and clinics and marketed on a direct personal level these drugs," Miller said. "They got their views into medical publications. Their thinking -- we think the wrong thinking -- on their prescriptions got into medical schools."

Miller said in the past two decades, nearly 218,000 Americans, including more than 2,000 Iowans, have died from overdoses related to opioids. They are the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S.

Iowa has also seen a significant increase in medical care needed to treat opioid addiction. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, more than 2,500 Iowans were admitted for treatment in 2015, compared to 653 in 2005.

The state is seeking restitution going back to 1996, when Purdue first started manufacturing the drug, and civil penalities under the Consumer Fraud Act.

The other states that also filed lawsuits on Thursday are Kansas, Maryland, West Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Thirty-nine other states have already filed lawsuits.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter