Seattle Joins Opioid Litigation – Files Lawsuit
The City of Seattle has filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers for the prescription drug and heroin crisis that has plagued our communities. The lawsuit cites RCW 7.48.010, creating a public nuisance and RCW 19.86.020, engaging in unfair and deceptive marketing practices, and RCW 9A.82.100, conducting a pattern of criminal profiteering activity and participating in civil conspiracy.
In a press release on September 28, 2017, the City of Seattle announced that a lawsuit had been filed in King County Superior Court “seeking monetary damages from a host of opioid manufacturers for ‘the deceptive manner in which opioids were marketed to well-intentioned doctors’ and for creating a public nuisance.”
“Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes, this disaster is human-made. Our investigation has shown that, here in Seattle, the chief cause of opioid abuse is the deceptive marketing of opioids by pharmaceutical companies. Seattle has paid upfront by devoting millions of City dollars to criminal justice, first-responders, public health and human services to address the needs of opioid addicts from every walk of life,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. “These are sums that, but for defendants’ conduct, Seattle could have devoted to other beneficial uses.”
The complaint names defendants Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical and Endo Pharmaceutical.
Holmes also stated that the opioid crisis was a large contributor to Seattle’s homlessness crisis.
Washington State Joins Opioid Litigation – Files Lawsuit
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused Purdue Pharma of deceptive marketing of opioids to the medical community and the public which included down-playing the risks and overstating the effectiveness of the drugs, contributing to doctors over-prescribing and the increase in addiction.
“Blinded by pursuit of profit — billions and billions of dollars — they ignored what was going on in our communities all across this country for their bottom line. That’s not right. It’s our job to hold them accountable for that,” Ferguson said.
In a statement by the state, “the lawsuit contends Purdue conducted an uncontrolled experiment on the American public without any reliable clinical evidence that opioids are effective at treating chronic pain. To doctors and patients, Purdue consistently downplayed the risks of addiction from long-term use and deceptively represented opioids as safe for treating long-term chronic pain.”
Purdue Pharma denies the claims, saying in a statement “We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are dedicated to being part of the solution. As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge. Although our products account for approximately 2 percent of the total opioid prescriptions, as a company, we’ve distributed the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain, developed the first FDA-approved opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties and partner with law enforcement to ensure access to naloxone. We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks the profits Purdue made in Washington state and also names Purdue, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Johnson & Johnson.
It has been reported that prescriptions in Washington have increased by more than 500% between years 1997 and 2011 and that a study in 2014 found that “nearly 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids first.”
The city of Seattle and the state of Washington are not the only entities to sue opioid manufacturers. The cities of Tacoma and Everett have also filed lawsuits, as well as other cities, counties and states across the country.
In 2015, more people in Washington died from opioid overdose than car accidents and the majority of those overdoses involved opioids.