Top Anti-Tobacco Lawyer Moore Zeroes in on Purdue Pharma and Implications to RI Are Complex

Monday, December 17, 2018


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Mike Moore is leading the litigation against Purdue Pharma.

Mike Moore, arguably the top litigator in America, is now zeroing in on Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Moore in the early 1990s led the 50 state battle against big tobacco that led to a $250 billion settlement when he was the Attorney General in the state of Mississippi. He was also a key player in the $60 billion-plus settlement with BP for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Moore’s effort against the opioid manufacturers and distributors potentially has significant implications for Rhode Island.

Rhode Island's Tangled Relationship with Purdue Pharma.

First, Rhode Island is home to one of the largest Oxycontin manufacturing facilities — a facility that is a major employer in Rhode Island. In September, GoLocal unveiled that Rhode Island is home to one of the largest manufacturing plants of the drug in the world -- and the company's marketing functions.

Bloomberg has reported the ownership relationship between Purdue Pharma and RI-based Rhodes Technologies and its related marketing company. Rhodes is a subsidiary to Purdue, the company owned by the Sackler family -- the billionaires whose patriarch invented oxycontin and is now facing criticism and legal actions across the country for pushing the drug -- often described as "heroin in a pill."

Second, Rhode Island is suing Purdue Pharma as are more than 40 others states and thousands of cities and towns across the country.

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Raimondo continues to refuse to return or donate Sackler's political donations.

Third, Governor Gina Raimondo continues to refuse to return or donate the $12,500 she has accepted in campaign donations from Purdue Pharma’ Jonathan Sackler and his wife.

New York’s Suffolk County has filed suit individually naming members of the Sackler family --  including Raimondo's donor Jonathan Sackler. Massachusetts has also named Jonathan Sackler individually in its lawsuit. “For them [the Sacklers] it’s greed, it was all about profits over people,” Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey told The Guardian. “I feel very confident naming the family members.”

The recently filed New York suit alleges that the Sacklers individually “actively participated in conspiracy and fraud to portray the prescription painkiller as non-addictive, even though they knew it was dangerously addictive.”

While Raimondo received the $12,500 from Purdue Pharma scion  Sackler and his wife --  Lt. Governor Dan Mckee, donated the political contributions he received tied to the Sacklers to substance abuse treatment programs in the state after the donations were brought to light.

Raimondo has repeatedly refused to return the donations. SEE VIDEO HERE

60 Minutes Feature

Moore appeared on 60 Minutes on Sunday night and outlined the opioid industry's legal vulnerabilities -- which Moore could result in judgments in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

“The Purdue Pharma case is an easy case. I hate to say it, but it's an easy case to prove. You can prove that they told the lies that they told," said Moore. It has been considered tougher to build a case against Mike Moore's other targets, the huge drug distributors who've made billions delivering opioids from manufacturers to pharmacies.

Moore said in the 60 Minutes interview that he believes he can link the entire drug supply chain together in the suit. "Pill spill. Huge pill spill. It never should've occurred. Everybody's got some fault. But we have 72,000 people dying every year. Let's figure out a way to resolve this thing. You guys made billions of dollars off of this. Take some of that money and apply it to the problem that you helped cause," said Moore.

CBS News' Bill Whitaker said, "He's a long way from convincing the drug industry to do that, of course, that's why all the lawsuits. The first targets are opioid manufacturers like Purdue Pharma, which makes oxycontin, the pill that fueled the opioid epidemic."

But Moore got a big boost and Purdue Pharma had a significant legal setback on Friday. As STAT reported, “A Kentucky appeals court upheld a judge’s ruling ordering the release of secret records about Purdue Pharma’s marketing of the powerful prescription opioid OxyContin, which has been blamed for helping to seed today’s opioid addiction epidemic. The records under seal include a deposition of Richard Sackler, a former president of Purdue and a member of the family that founded and controls the privately held Connecticut company. Other records include marketing strategies and internal emails about them; documents concerning internal analyses of clinical trials; settlement communications from an earlier criminal case regarding the marketing of OxyContin; and information regarding how sales representatives marketed the drug.”

Richard Sackler is Jonathan Sackler’s brother.


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