NY opioid lawsuit hits billionaire family behind OxyContin

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New York on Thursday sued the billionaire family behind OxyContin, joining a growing list of state and local governments alleging the drugmaker sparked the nation's opioid crisis by putting hunger for profits over patient safety.

The state, which averages nine opioid-related deaths per day, amended an existing lawsuit against pill maker Purdue Pharma to add members of its controlling Sackler family as defendants. The state also added as defendants five other companies that produce opioid painkillers and, in what New York Attorney General Letitia James called a novelty, four drug distributors.

The lawsuit seeks penalties and damages that could add up to tens of millions of dollars and a dedicated fund to curb the opioid epidemic. It also seeks to have the companies stripped of their licenses and barred from marketing and distributing painkillers in New York until they abide by strict safeguards.

Teri Kroll, of Lindenhurst, lost her son Timothy to a heroin overdose. Kroll says she's disgusted thinking about the billions of dollars the Sackler family and its company Purdue Parma have made.

"This lawsuit is going to bring things to the forefront," says Terri Kroll, the mother of an opioid victim. "We in New York need money to treat people who have been addicted. And the Sackler family needs to be held responsible."

The companies, the lawsuit said, deliberately betrayed their duties under state drug laws "in order to profiteer from the plague they knew would be unleashed."

The lawsuit described the opioid epidemic as a "statewide catastrophe."

Addiction expert Jeffrey Reynolds says the opioid epidemic is a multigenerational problem that's going to take millions of dollars in Nassau and Suffolk to fix.

The announcement of New York's expanded lawsuit came two days after Purdue and the Sacklers agreed to pay $270 million to the state of Oklahoma. It was the first settlement in a recent wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits that the company says could push it into bankruptcy. In settling the case, Purdue denied any wrongdoing.

Statistics show the opioid epidemic has claimed almost 3,700 lives on Long Island since 2010.

AP Wire Services were used in this report.

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