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Maryland Becomes 1 Of 5 States To Announce New Suits Over Prescription Opioids

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Maryland is charging the owners and directors of Purdue Pharma with violating consumer protection laws. The state alleges they gave false and misleading information about opioids to prescribers and paid doctors to promote them.

Maryland was one of five states to announce the filings Thursday. Officials in Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, West Virginia and Wisconsin also announced filings.

"We quote in our statement of charges sales representatives of Purdue who called the strongest dose of Oxycontin hillbilly heaven," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said. "We allege they knew what they were doing and they were preying upon people who once they took the drug became very vulnerable."

The attorney general charged Richard Sackler, owner of Purdue Pharma -- which produces Oxycontin -- with violating the State's consumer protection laws.

"We want the courts to tell them to stop," Frosh said.

Baltimore County has the second-highest overdose rate in Maryland. The county announced a public engagement program online starting Thursday.

"As you know, the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the country has not spared Baltimore County," Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said.

Frosh said the problem needs to be addressed on all fronts.

"Families are desperate," he said.

Several states are also other drugmakers or distributors.

Maryland's case against the owner and directors of Purdue Pharma alleges that the company strategized to keep parents on opioids longer, targeted prescribers with limited knowledge of opioids, encouraged doctors to prescribe higher doses and paid others o promote the drugs.

According to the Department of Health, Maryland ranks in the top-5 highest addiction rates in the country.

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