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.
The lawsuit by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused Purdue of deceptive marketing of OxyContin and convincing doctors and the public that its drugs had a low-risk of addiction and were effective for treating chronic pain. "I appreciate the Attorney General taking this important step today", Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said.
"Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes, this disaster is a human-made crisis", Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes told a news conference at Harborview Medical Center, where officials said more than 100 people were being treated for addiction.
The lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma deceived the public, including doctors, about the risks associated with opioid pain-killers.
"Although our products account for approximately 2% 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", the company said. The drug contains opioids.
The city of Seattle also filed a separate lawsuit against Purdue as well as units of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International Plc and Allergan plc.
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In a written statement, Purdue denied the allegations but said it is "deeply troubled" by the addiction crisis and "dedicated to being part of the solution".
The lawsuits were filed in King County Superior Court and contend that Purdue's illegal conduct contributed to excessive prescriptions and addiction, causing many addicted patients to look for other ways to get more pills or to get heroin.
Dennis said Thursday that her son spent nine months in a Seattle hospital hooked up to an opiate drip to deal with the pain of his chemotherapy.
Multiple cities and counties across the country have sued opioid manufacturers, including Tacoma and Everett.
She said she knew he had a problem when she visited him in treatment, and he asked her to leave, saying, "This is my happy time".
A 2014 study found that almost 80 percent of heroin users reported using prescription opioids before they started using heroin, Ferguson said.