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Feb 22, 2002 | Macon Telegraph (GA)

The husband of a local woman who died while taking the pain medication Oxycontin has filed suit in Bibb County against the drug's manufacturer and marketer.

George McKinney filed suit this week on his behalf, as well as that of his wife, Glenda McKinney, who was 53 when she died Feb. 17, 2000, from medical problems allegedly tied to Oxycontin use.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from Purdue Pharma and Abbott Laboratories for allegedly aggressively pushing the medication to doctors without providing adequate information about the drug's highly addictive quality - allegations made in a number of suits filed against the companies across the nation.

The federal Drug Enforcement Agency has reviewed medical examiner reports from 2000 and part of 2001 and verified 117 deaths were from Oxycontin while another 179 were likely caused by the drug.

"( The suit's allegations ) are not isolated, limited claims, these are widespread," said Perry Shuttlesworth Jr., one of the attorneys who filed McKinney's claim. "I would expect them to say they didn't do anything wrong, but I think it's pretty well accepted by everyone except the drug manufacturer and their marketer ... that they did a lot wrong with respect to Oxycontin."

He said there is a reason the company's annual sales grew to more than $1 billion after only a few years on the market. The suit alleges the companies pushed the drug by paying for doctors to attend pain management seminars and by not taking proper precautions to ensure the drug can't be crushed or dissolved - an action that circumvents the drug's time-release properties and creates a euphoric feeling similar to one derived from heroin use.

A spokesman for the drug's manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, said the company intends to vigorously defend the Bibb County claim.

"Just a cursory review of the case presents some pretty glaring factual errors, which says to me the lawsuit was not well considered," said Tim Bannon, the senior director of public affairs.

A spokeswoman for Abbott Laboratories, which promoted the medication in some hospital settings, said the company did not comment on individual suits.

"There are lawsuits around the country, frankly, involving the parties and several different physicians," said Tareta Lewis. "Each case is different, and we don't comment on specifics."

The suit also names Dr. Carlos Giron as a defendant. He is the local doctor who prescribed Oxycontin to McKinney for myofascial pain syndrome and unspecified lower back pain, according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges McKinney asked the doctor to help her quit Oxycontin, but he took no action. The suit also said Giron knew McKinney had past "propensity for substance addiction" and should not have been an candidate for the drug.

"The patient was prescribed appropriate dosages for her multiple conditions and severe chronic pain," said Giron, who has not been officially served. "Unfortunately she did not adhere to the amounts as prescribed, and an overdose occurred.

"It is very unfortunate. She was a lovely lady."

The suit seeks compensatory, economic and noneconomic damages for the life of McKinney, as well as punitive damages and special damages to include funeral expenses.

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