Washington state AG Bob Ferguson, Seattle sue OxyContin maker over opioid deaths

The attorney general and city of Seattle allege that Purdue Pharma, and other opioid manufacturers, downplayed the risk of addiction. “They ignored what was happening … for their bottom line,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “and that’s not right.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes on Thursday filed separate lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies, including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, accusing them of fueling the state’s ongoing opioid epidemic.

The city of Seattle’s suit includes Purdue, Teva Pharmaceuticals and several other prescription drugmakers. The state’s suit involves only Purdue, accusing the company of using deceptive marketing to convince both patients and doctors that the drug is effective for treating chronic pain and carries low risk of addiction.

The company downplayed the risk of taking the drugs, according to the attorney general’s office.

Filed in King County Superior Court, the city’s lawsuit alleges that Purdue contributed to the drugs being over-prescribed by doctors.

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Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks to force Purdue to forfeit profits made in Washington over the sale of opioids.

In a news conference Thursday at Harborview Medical Center, Ferguson and Holmes introduced their lawsuits. Ferguson said Purdue had conducted an “uncontrolled experiment” by infusing communities across the nation with misleading marketing about opioids.

“They ignored what was happening … for their bottom line,” Ferguson said, “and that’s not right.”

Drug-use deaths hit a record high of 332 in King County last year, according to a report by University of Washington researchers. Heroin deaths dropped slightly, from 132 in 2015 to 118 last year. But fatal overdoses related to prescription opioids and fentanyl, a potent painkiller being made illegally, increased.

Holmes said Seattle’s lawsuit…

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