Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (second from left) listens to a question on Thursday in Seattle after announcing that the state and the city of Seattle are filing lawsuits against several makers of opioids, including Purdue Pharma. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (second from left) listens to a question on Thursday in Seattle after announcing that the state and the city of Seattle are filing lawsuits against several makers of opioids, including Purdue Pharma. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

The state and Seattle file opioid lawsuits, joining Everett

More than two dozen states, counties and cities now have sued manufacturers over the opioid crisis.

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

SEATTLE — Washington state and the city of Seattle on Thursday joined more than two dozen other government entities across the country suing to hold opioid makers accountable for an addiction crisis that has claimed thousands of lives.

The governments hope to recoup costs of responding to drug addiction, including money spent on emergencies, criminal justice and social services.

“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 latest suits, filed separately in King County Superior Court, accuse the companies of deliberately overstating the effectiveness of their prescription painkillers while misleading patients and doctors about the risks of addiction — in violation of Washington’s consumer protection laws.

The state’s complaint names Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, while the city names numerous defendants, including Purdue, Teva Pharmaceutical and Teva Pharmaceutical.

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.”

“As a company grounded in science, we must balance patient access to FDA-approved medicines, while working collaboratively to solve this public health challenge,” it said.

More than two dozen states, cities and counties — including Ohio, Mississippi, Orange County in California, and the Washington cities of Everett and Tacoma — have sued the pharmaceutical companies. Most other states have recently broadened a joint effort to investigate the companies’ actions.

If the industry cooperates, the investigation could lead to a national settlement. Connecticut Attorney George Jepsen has said there are early indications that drug makers and distributors will discuss the matter with the states.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he was withdrawing from that effort because he was ready to sue now in light of the ongoing harms opioid addiction is causing in the state. Nearly 10,000 people have died from overdoses in the state since 2000, he said.

“Purdue Pharma has knowingly conducted an uncontrolled experiment on the people of Washington state and the American public without any reliable, clinical evidence that opioids are safe or even effective at treating long-term, chronic pain,” he said.

Ferguson and Holmes were joined at the news conference by representatives of the Seattle police and fire departments, as well as Rose Dennis, of Kirkland, who said her son became addicted as a 12-year-old when he spent nine months hooked to an opioid drip while being treated for leukemia at a Seattle medical center. He’s now 31, and has struggled since his teens with addiction and homelessness.

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.”

She declined to sue the doctors, she said: “In reality, they saved my son’s life from cancer.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2015, drug overdoses killed more than 52,000 Americans. Most involved prescription opioids such as OxyContin or Vicodin or related illicit drugs such as heroin and fentanyl. People with addictions often switch among the drugs.

Talk to us

More in Northwest

Protesters faced off with law enforcement officers at NE Highway 99, in Vancouver, Wash., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, after a police shooting. Authorities say sheriff's deputies in Clark County, Washington, were involved in a shooting, but didn’t release details. A man told The Oregonian/OregonLive his 21-year-old son was killed by police. (Mark Graves/The Oregonian via AP)
Father: Son fatally shot by deputies in Washington state

Following the Hazel Dell shooting, a group of protesters gathered at the scene.

A dog peers out from a kennel after the landing of a "Paws Across the Pacific" pet rescue flight Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020, in Seattle. Volunteer organizations flew more than 600 dogs and cats from shelters across Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, calling it the largest pet rescue ever. The animals are being taken from overcrowded facilities in the islands to shelters in Washington state, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Hundreds of shelter dogs, cats flown across the Pacific

The coronavirus pandemic has led to overcrowding in Hawaii pet shelters.

In this undated photo courtesy of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife shows a wolf of the Teanaway Pack fitted with a radio collar in the Teanaway area of Washington's Central Cascades in Washington state. 
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday, Sept. 4, 2020, directed the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to draft new rules governing the killing of wolves involved in conflicts with livestock. (Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife via AP)
Trump officials end gray wolf protections across most of US

Wolf hunts could start in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — crucial battlegrounds in the Nov. 3 election.

FILE - In this July 31, 2013, file photo, tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier in the Tongass National Forest are reflected in a pool of water as they make their way to Nugget Falls in Juneau, Alaska. The U.S. Forest Service announced plans Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, to lift restrictions on road building and logging in Tongass National Forest, a largely pristine rainforest in southeast Alaska that provides habitat for wolves, bears and salmon. Conservation groups vowed to fight the decision. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)
Feds to open logging, road-building in Tongass National Forest

Conservation groups vowed to fight the decision, calling it short-sighted and driven by politics.

CORRECTS NAME OF CANDIDATE AT LEFT TO MAIA ESPINOZA INSTEAD OF OF MONICA MARCHETTI - Maia Espinoza, a candidate for Washington state superintendent of public instruction, is shown at left in an undated photo taken by Monica Marchetti and provided by her campaign. Espinoza is challenging incumbent state superintendent Chris Reykdal, right, shown in an AP photo taken Oct. 2, 2020, in Olympia, Wash., in the upcoming November election. (AP Photo)
State Supreme Court explains ruling in voter guide case

Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal had claimed his challenger, Maia Espinoza, defamed him.

Washington Secretary of State Kim Wyman talks to reporters in her office, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. Wyman was talking about a series of election- and ballot-security bills her office is asking the Washington Legislature to consider during the current session. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Officials encourage vigilance for election misinformation

Secretary of State Kim Wyman said there have not been any breaches of the state’s election system so far.

Baby stuck between 2 countries now has home and family in US

Because of the virus outbreak, the parents faced closed doors and unresponsive officials.

The Hanford nuclear site. (Business Wire)
Longer transition allowed for $16B in contracts at Hanford

The plan will help employees comply with safety guidelines intended to limit the spread of COVID-19.

This September 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials for a single-dose COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the company. On Friday, Oct. 23, 2020, Johnson & Johnson announced that the Food and Drug Administration is letting it resume testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate in the U.S. (Cheryl Gerber/Johnson & Johnson via AP)
Washington joins multi-state review pact on COVID-19 vaccine

Inslee said he was “cautiously optimistic” that most people would choose to get the vaccine.

Most Read