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State prosecutors take aim at opioid makers for consumer fraud

Many people throughout Minnesota and the rest of the country who get caught up in the deadly grip of opioid addiction first started taking the drugs because a doctor prescribed them as pain relievers. Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin are among the opioids most commonly prescribed. Too often, when people can no longer get their prescription drugs, they move to powerful illegal drugs like heroin to feed their addiction.

Opioid overdoses are too often fatal. Prince, who died in 2016, is probably the most famous Minnesotan to fall victim to an opioid overdose. Minnesota, like the nation in general, has seen an increase in opioid-related fatalities in recent years.

Last November, county attorneys throughout the state announced plans to hold opioid manufacturers liable for their role in the opioid crisis by misleading both physicians and patients about the safety of these drugs.

Last month, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced that Minnesota would join 25 other states is suing Purdue Pharma. This month, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom announced that county's own lawsuit against the drug maker and the company's owners.

Dakota County's suit claims that the company's marketing tactics violated Minnesota laws against consumer fraud, false claims and deceptive trade practices. That county reported 272 opioid fatalities between 2000 and 2016.

This latest lawsuit comes as the state's American Indian tribes say they are also taking legal action against opioid manufacturers. The opioid crisis has hit their communities particularly hard.

Purdue and other drug makers that have been targeted in lawsuits, assert that they have done nothing wrong. They claim that they too are concerned about the opioid crisis.

The Dakota County suit is seeking compensation to recover the cost of the opioid crisis to the county. Any money awarded in the state lawsuit would be used for prevention and treatment programs.

Laws against consumer fraud and similar activities are in place to protect people against unfair and sometimes harmful practices. Many consumer fraud lawsuits are class action suits because often numerous people are harmed by the actions of a company or even an industry. Minnesota consumer fraud attorneys work to protect those who have suffered harm and to seek the compensation that victims need and deserve.

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