The city of Los Angeles has sued top drugmakers and distributors for “deceptive marketing” aimed at boosting sales of powerful, addictive painkillers such as OxyContin, methadone, and fentanyl.

According to the lawsuit filed in a California district court by LA City Attorney Mike Feuer, the companies borrowed from the tobacco industry’s playbook by using false and deceptive marketing and business practices to boost opioid sales.

Feuer claimed he was filing the lawsuit to hold the drug firms accountable for driving the opioid epidemic and the “significant impacts of their reckless and irresponsible business practices.” The suit seeks an end to those practices while providing compensation for costs and damages.

“One of the main drivers of the opioid epidemic has been deceptive marketing,” said Feuer. “That deceptive marketing encourages the use of opioids for chronic pain, instead of short-term use, and it minimizes the potentially addictive effects.”

The manufacturers named in the suit include Purdue Pharma, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Cephalon, Insys Therapeutics, and Mallinckrodt. Three wholesalers, McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Corporation where also named.

The suit alleges the companies sought to “shift the way in which doctors and patients think about pain, specifically, to encourage the use of opioids to treat… the masses who suffer from common chronic pain conditions.” Furthermore, it claims that wholesalers “failed to track and report suspicious sales as required by California and federal law.”

Representatives for those companies named in the lawsuits deny the allegations. This includes Healthcare Distribution Alliance, the national trade association representing wholesale distributors, who’ve issued a statement in response.

“The idea that distributors are responsible for the number of opioid prescriptions written defies common sense and lacks understanding of how the pharmaceutical supply chain actually works and is regulated,” John Parker, senior vice president of communications for the alliance. “Those bringing lawsuits would be better served addressing the root causes, rather than trying to redirect blame through litigation.”

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