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GSK Director indicted in Massachusetts opioid lawsuit

Published on 04/07/18 at 10:27am

The state of Massachusetts has taken action to sue a board member at GlaxoSmithKline for her alleged role in fuelling the opioid addiction crisis that has devastated the United States in recent years.

Judy Lewent, who has been a non-Executive Director at British company GlaxoSmithKline since 2011, served on the board of OxyContin drug makers Purdue Pharma for more than four years until 2014. Lewent was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts’ Attorney General last month for her role in the opioid addiction epidemic which claimed the lives of more than 42,000 people in 2016 alone.

The Massachusetts lawsuit, which targets 16 individuals, placed focus on members of the transatlantic Sackler family, who have controlled Purdue Pharma since the early 1950s. The legal action alleges that Purdue Pharma “created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit.”

Ms Lewent, among others, was named as one of those “who oversaw and engaged in a deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids in Massachusetts.” However half of the people named in the lawsuit were members of the multi-billion dollar Sackler dynasty who profited from the sale of the powerful pain medication OxyContin.

Purdue has in the past paid millions of dollars to settle charges filed by federal prosecutors related to the marketing of OxyContin. The recent lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts alleges that Ms Lewent and other defendants deceived patients and doctors as to the risks of prescription opioids. The state claims that Purdue Pharma encouraged physicians to prescribe the pain medication on a long term basis and that they marketed to vulnerable people.

The lawsuit is intended to recuperate the costs associated with the opioid epidemic which include the costs of addiction treatment centres and the expansion of morgues. However Purdue has filed motions to dismiss the case as they “vigorously” deny the allegations. Minnesota also launched a lawsuit this week against Purdue Pharma over the marketing of the opioid painkiller.

Louis Goss

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