RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia’s top prosecutor has filed another lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company that makes fentanyl saying their marketing downplayed how addictive the drug was to boost sales.

Attorney General Mark Herring is suing Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, which is part of an Israeli-based drug company, Cephalon. Herring alleges the company violated Virginia’s Consumer Protection Act by promoting the drug as a routine way to manage day-to-day pain. 

The FDA approved fentanyl use in 1999 for cancer patients facing severe chronic pain, the lawsuit says. It comes in the form of patches and lozenges, called Actiq and Fentora. 

“Only for very restricted uses – for cancer patients who are terminally ill who are facing excruciating pain that couldn’t be alleviated in any other way,” Herring explained, “… instead, Teva went out and marketed it to physicians for all kinds of pain relief. For headaches, migraines, back pain, to try to normalize its use for pain management.”

Illegally-made fentanyl is also on the rise and is a driving force in the opioid crisis.

Between 2007 and 2018, nearly 10,000 Virginians died from an opioid overdose. About 3,500 of them died because of overdosing on fentanyl. Over that same time frame, fentanyl overdose deaths have risen by nearly 1,600 percent.

“The opioid crisis has its roots in the medicine cabinet,” Herring said. “It goes all the way back to the marketing offices and boardrooms of pharmaceutical companies.” 

Herring says the lawsuit is seeking monetary compensation for Virginians. 

This lawsuit comes on the heels of another push to hold big companies accountable for the opioid crisis. Attorney General Herring and other attorneys general across the country sued oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma, which is now filing for bankruptcy

Teva Pharmaceuticals has yet to respond for comment.