Politics & Government

Kentucky's lawsuit against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to remain in Pike


Kentucky's legal battle against the maker of the pain reliever OxyContin will stay in Pike County, a pleased Attorney General Jack Conway said Monday.

In a news release, Conway said Pike Circuit Judge Steven Combs has turned down Purdue Pharma's motion to change the venue of the case from Pike County to Franklin County.

Conway also said Combs denied Purdue's motion to allow it to withdraw admissions that the company made when Purdue failed to respond to pleadings in the case.

Purdue had previously admitted to misrepresenting or concealing the true addictive nature of OxyContin and encouraging doctors, who were not trained in pain management, to overprescribe OxyContin, Conway said.

"We appreciate the court's rulings and its careful consideration of this case, and we will continue to aggressively pursue this action," Conway said. "Purdue used everything in the playbook to keep this case out of Pike County. I look forward to the day when Purdue faces a Pike County jury and answers for its conduct that helped fuel a pill epidemic in this state."

Purdue Pharma spokesman James Heins said in an email that the company "respectfully disagree with the court's ruling on the two motions." He said the company is "assessing our options."

The drug maker pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Virginia in 2007 for misbranding OxyContin. Three of its top executives also pleaded guilty, including its former general counsel, Howard Udell, who recently died.

Kentucky sued Purdue Pharma in 2007 in Pike Circuit Court, seeking reimbursement of money spent on law enforcement, drug treatment programs and Medicaid prescriptions.

State officials accused Purdue Pharma of falsely promoting OxyContin, the brand name for oxycodone, to health care providers as less addictive and less likely to cause withdrawal than other pain medications.

Purdue Pharma had the case moved to federal court in Eastern Kentucky, then to southern New York, citing federal issues involved in the litigation. A federal judge in New York moved it back to Pike Circuit Court last January.