A private company in the United States is being sued by a number of counties in the state of Kentucky over the potent painkilling drug OxyContin.
Purdue Pharma is being sued for millions of dollars worth of reimbursement for prescriptions paid for by Medicaid and the Kentucky Pharmaceutical Assistance program.
The class-action suit alleges the company is guilty of fraud, conspiracy, negligence and public nuisance.
Twenty other counties are apparently interested in joining in the suit, which seeks millions in compensatory and punitive damages for the high cost of drug abuse programs and law enforcement expenses that have resulted because of the abuse of OxyContin.
Kentucky's Attorney General Greg Stumbo says abusers of OxyContin have flooded state jails and treatment centers following the introduction of the drug into Kentucky's market in 1995.
OxyContin has been nicknamed "hillbilly heroin", due to its overwhelming abuse in states like Kentucky and Virginia; it is generically known as oxycodone and is a very strong narcotic pain reliever similar to morphine.
OxyContin is designed so that the oxycodone is slowly released over time, allowing it to be used twice daily.
The pills should never be broken, chewed, or crushed as this causes a large amount of oxycodone to be released from the tablet all at once with the potential of a dangerous or fatal drug overdose...... and this where the abuse comes in.
Abusers crush the tablets, then either ingest the powder orally, or dissolve the powder then inject it, or use it rectally to get rapid absorption into the bloodstream.
The drug has been responsible for hundreds of overdose and abuse related deaths over the past few years and has reached epidemic proportions in many parts of the country.
Most OxyContin-related deaths are due to ingesting substantial quantities of oxycodone in combination with another depressant of the central nervous system such as alcohol or benzodiazepines.
Oxycodone has similar effects to morphine and heroin, and appeals to the same abuse groups; it is considered a "reasonable substitute" for heroin and in some areas is the drug of greatest concern to enforcement authorities.
Stumbo says addictions and crime rates have increased dramatically, along with all the social costs related to addiction.
The lawsuit has come about after the drug maker and three of its current or former executives pleaded guilty in May to misleading the public about the drug's risk of addiction and agreed to pay $634.5 million in fines for claiming the drug was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain medications.
Purdue Pharma claims that OxyContin warns about its potential for abuse and that they should not be held responsible for what individuals choose to do beyond the drug's intended use.
They say they will defend the lawsuit and expect to be successful.