The legal troubles facing makers of prescription painkillers continue to grow as the City of Seattle and Washington state have each filed lawsuits against opioid manufacturers, arguing the companies downplayed risks of the drugs and deceptively marketed them to boost profits.
Other cities such as Everett and Tacoma and states such as Ohio and Missouri have already sued pharmaceutical companies that make the drugs.
Washington is suing Purdue Pharma, which makes the opioid painkiller Oxycontin. Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the company marketed the drug as safe and effective without proof.
“Blinded by pursuit of profits – billions and billions of dollars – they ignored what was going on in our communities all across this country for their bottom line,” Ferguson said. “That’s not right.”
A spokesman for Purdue Pharma denied the allegations and said the company is deeply troubled by the opioid crisis. The company also said it’s partnering with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone, a drug used to treat overdoses.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said King County had a record 332 overdose deaths last year and more than two-thirds were opioid-related. He said the city has spent millions of dollars to address the needs of people addicted to opioids.
“Our public health system, our criminal justice system and our human services safety net are incredibly stressed and maxed out by the surge in opioid and heroin use,” Holmes said.
Seattle’s lawsuit targets Purdue Pharma and other drug companies, including Endo Pharmaceuticals, which makes the drug Percocet.
An Endo spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on current litigation. She said the company’s top priorities include patient safety and ensuring that patients with chronic pain get safe and effective treatment.
“We share in the FDA’s goal of appropriately supporting the needs of patients with chronic pain while preventing misuse and diversion of opioid products,” the company said in a statement.
Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that the city of Everett can proceed with its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.