December 20, 2017 / 8:51 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-New Mexico adds Insys, Mallinckrodt to opioid epidemic lawsuit

(Adds further details on case)

By Nate Raymond

Dec 20 (Reuters) - New Mexico on Wednesday added claims against drugmakers Insys Therapeutics Inc and Mallinckrodt Plc in a lawsuit accusing various opioid manufacturers and distributors of helping fuel a drug addiction epidemic in the state.

New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced that he had decided to amend a lawsuit he first filed in September against five drugmakers and three wholesale distributors to add Insys and Mallinckrodt as defendants.

“The entire pharmaceutical opioid industry, including both manufacturers and distributors together, has been in on the scheme to illegally market and sell opioids to New Mexicans, and we’ve modified our complaint to show that,” Balderas said in a statement.

Insys and Mallinckrodt did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in over 33,000 deaths in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. The death rate has continued rising, according to estimates.

Amid the epidemic, state attorneys general have launched investigations into whether companies that manufacture and distribute prescription opioids engaged in unlawful practices.

Thirteen states have filed lawsuits against one or more drug manufacturers, claiming they engaged in deceptive marketing that underplayed opioids’ risks.

Balderas initially sued Purdue Pharma LP, Johnson & Johnson , Allergan Plc, Endo International Plc and Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, claiming they pushed painkillers through deceptive marketing.

The lawsuit also accused wholesale distributors McKesson Corp, Cardinal Health Inc and AmerisourceBergen Corp of breaching their legal duties to monitor, detect and report suspicious orders of prescription opioids.

The companies have denied wrongdoing.

Both Mallinckrodt and Insys have been the subject of U.S. Justice Department probes amid the opioid epidemic.

Federal prosecutors in Boston have brought charges against seven former Insys executives and managers, including billionaire founder John Kapoor, who they say engaged in a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe a fentanyl-based cancer pain spray.

They have pleaded not guilty. Arizona-based Insys has said that it is in talks to reach a settlement with the Justice Department and has recorded $150 million as the minimum amount it would have to pay.

In July, the Justice Department announced that Mallinckrodt Plc, one of the largest manufacturers of the generic opioid painkiller oxycodone, would pay $35 million to resolve allegations that it failed to report suspicious drug orders. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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