Kentucky to get $40 million from pharmaceutical companies after lawsuits

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Emergency. Crisis. Epidemic. They're all words often used to describe Kentucky's battle with drug abuse. Thursday in Frankfort, a new word was tossed around: blame. 

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced a $40 million settlement with two drug companies. 

Conway said $24 million of the settlement will come Purdue Pharma, the makers of Oxycontin. 

He said the company lied to doctors about the pitfalls of the powerful opioid pain reliever. 

"They told physicians there was no buzz or euphoria associated with Oxycontin," he said. "They told physicians less than one percent of people became addicted to opioids and they told physicians it had a lower abuse potential than other pain killers."

Daniel Brown -- a man who spoke to us in 2013 about recovering from addiction -- knows the struggle.

"I was hooked on pain killers for six years," Brown said, back then. "I started on Oxycontin and then it went to Opanas. " 

"I feel strongly that pharmaceutical companies should help pay for the mess they created," Conway said.

The state also settled a three-year court battle with the pharmaceutical companies behind Risperdal, a schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder drug. Janssen and Johnson and Johnson agreed to a $15.5 million settlement on accusations of false marketing. Conway said sales reps encouraged doctors to prescribe the drug for ADHD in kids and elderly people with dementia, outside the scope of its FDA approval. 

It's now known to cause diabetes, hormonal imbalance and early death. 

"Janssen was aware of these risks, but did not update the drug's warning label because internal documentation showed they feared the company feared it could lose up to $150 million a year," Conway said.

But the money will not go directly to victims. At least half of the $40 million will support drug prevention and drug treatment programs in the Commonwealth.

Representatives of centers like The Healing Place in Louisville say it is greatly needed. 

"On average, we're turning about 20 people a day from our detox facility," said Doug Scott of The Healing Place. "Twenty." 

"We've had an epidemic," Conway said.

Today's settlement announcement will likely be Conway's last big act as Attorney General. He leaves office in two weeks after losing a bid for Governor.

Conway said he's considering private law practice and philanthropy but there are no big political runs in his near future.


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