FILE - OxyContin pills

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s Office has filed an updated lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family.

Ellison said the Sackler family made “tens of millions” of dollars in profits in Minnesota although the family knew opioids like Oxycontin were potent and highly addictive as early as 1999.

From 2000 to 2017, the number of Minnesotans who died from opioid-related overdoses increased by nearly 800 percent, according to the lawsuit.

Prescription opioids now kill more Minnesotans every year than homicides. Minnesotans filled 3.87 million opioid prescriptions in 2015, including prescriptions for nearly 50 million units of oxycodone. When combined with other prescription drug-related deaths, overdoses outnumber fatalities from car accidents, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the Sacklers profited from opioid addiction drugs that they denied were addictive, that they tried to influence Minnesota’s pain management standards, and that the company has made more than $35 billion since it began marketing OxyContin more than 20 years ago

Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia are also suing the pharmaceutical company and its owners.

“They knew what they were doing, and they did it anyway,” Ellison said. “Today, we’re holding them personally accountable for the harm they and their greed have done to the people of our state.”

Four out of five opioid addictions may have started with prescription pills, according to the America Society of Addiction Medicine. In 2017, nearly 3.2 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed.

In May, the state Legislature approved a new licensing fee for opioid makers and distributors that is projected to raise $20 million annually that will fund addiction prevention and treatment.

Then-Attorney General Lori Swanson filed the initial suit against Purdue in 2018. No trial date has been set.

“The Sackler defendants knew they were distorting facts, deceiving people, and destroying lives, and they kept going for the sake of greed,” Ellison said in a statement. “They didn’t see addiction, epidemic, and death as reasons to change course – they saw them as opportunities for profit.”

Staff Reporter

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.