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Washington State, Cities of Everett and Seattle Latest Governmental Entities to sue opioid drug maker for harming communities

Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

The opioid epidemic in the United States is without question concerning. In Washington alone, 718 citizens died from opioid overdoses in 2015. Nationwide, 1 in 4 people who receive prescription opioids for chronic pain struggle with addiction.

Often, the use and misuse of narcotic pain medication touches issues in our practice, including evaluating whether to investigate possible claims, or in cases we are currently litigated.

Sometimes the issue is at the forefront - an allegation that a medical provider negligently prescribed or monitored the use of such medications, resulting in harm. Or an allegation that a person was “drug seeking” when he or she went to the emergency room, explaining why proper care was not provided.

At a 20,000 foot view, it is difficult to answer who or what is responsible for the current opioid crisis in our country. Answers can reasonably include, depending on the circumstances, the patient him or herself, the health care provider prescribing the medication, perhaps even the pharmacy for failing to catch an excessive amount of medication prescribed.

Another possible responsible party is the manufacturer of the medication itself. Lawsuits have been filed all over the country, including in New York, Ohio and Missouri.

Now Washington State and the Cities of Everett and Seattle have filed similar claims against Purdue Pharma. The lawsuits allege that the drug maker should be responsible for the considerable social and economic costs of the problems it asserts is caused by its drug OxyContin.

In the Everett lawsuit, the City alleges that Purdue Pharma knew that its pills were being illegally bought and sold on the black market but did nothing. The Washington State lawsuit alleges in part that the company used deceptive marketing to convince patients and doctors that the drug carried a low risk of addiction.

Recently a judge declined to dismiss the Everett case at the request of the defendant, and the case continues toward resolution at trial. Some of the damages the suits are claiming include specific costs it incurred because of Purdue Pharma’s negligence, including money spent on police, emergency medical services, and social services.

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