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Fighting Back: What’s Happening with Opioid Lawsuits in Washington State

Opioid Addiction Ravages the Country and Attacks the Evergreen State

In October, President Donald Trump declared the country’s addiction to opioids a national public health emergency. The country’s opioids addiction problem is widespread, causing death and destruction to those who come into contact with these highly addictive pain-killing drugs. This is especially true in The Evergreen State. We’ll sharing some surprising statistics with you later. You might be shocked to learn that of all fifty states in the union, Washington has been particularly affected by opioid addiction.

Washington State Fights Back Against the Opioid Epidemic

The negative consequences of opioid addiction effects have created a major crisis for the picturesque community that once enjoyed a more tranquil and easy-going lifestyle. Millions of Washingtonians are addicted to opioids. The prisons are packed with addicts who are serving time for opioid-related crimes. The homeless population has skyrocketed in number due to opioids. Thousands of people in Washington are dying every year from an opioid overdose. Indeed, this far-reaching addiction problem has dealt a devastating blow to the American way of life – and Washington state isn’t taking the crisis lying down. Those in power in have had enough. They’re fighting back. They demand retribution. It’s about time. In 2017, cities across the great state of Washington filed lawsuits against big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and distribute opioids. And, last month, the attorney general filed a suit on behalf of the entire state. Finally, these money-grubbing dope dealers are going to have to pay for what they are doing to our people.

In September, Washington State Filed Lawsuits Against Major Opioid Manufactures

On Sept. 28, 2017, Washington Attorney General Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced he filed a lawsuit against OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma for fueling the opioid epidemic in Washington state. Ferguson asserts that Purdue is guilty of engaging in a deceptive marketing campaign intended to deceive the masses about the true nature of the opioid drug OxyContin. The attorney general says the company knowingly conned doctors and the American public into believing this highly addictive narcotic is effective for treating chronic pain but has a low risk of addiction. This information is contrary to overwhelming evidence. By now, most Americans know that OxyContin is a highly addictive and very dangerous substance. And, studies indicate the drug is not as effective for treating pain as the company initially promised.

Washington’s Attorney General Intends to Hold Purdue Accountable for the State’s Opioid Crisis

Ferguson contends that Purdue’s deceptive marketing practices resulted in the untimely deaths of thousands of Washingtonians and caused devastation to an untold number of Washington families. According to a press release from the Office of the Attorney General of Washington 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.” Furthermore, the attorney general’s office reports, “Purdue’s deception yielded the company billions of dollars in profit nationwide from its opioid drugs. Ferguson’s lawsuit seeks to force Purdue to forfeit the Washington portion of those profits.” Legal opioid sales are a $13 billion-a-year industry. Ferguson’s lawsuit is seeking civil penalties and damages. He is also asking the court to order that Purdue forfeit the profits it generated in Washington as a result of its illegal conduct, which is estimated to be in the millions. This money will likely go to fund treatment of opioid addicts and provide education for communities across the state. “Purdue Pharma ignored the devastating consequences of its opioids and profited from its massive deception,” Ferguson said. “It’s time they are held accountable and pay for the devastation they caused.”

Seattle and Other Cities Have Also Filed Lawsuits Against Big Opioid Pharma Companies

The State of Washington is not the only governmental agency to file suit against opioid manufactures on behalf of the people of The Evergreen State. Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett have also filed lawsuits. Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes filed a separate suit against Purdue the same say Ferguson filed. He also filed lawsuits against Teva Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Pharmaceuticals, and Allergan – all major distributors of OxyContin. “I stand together with Attorney General Ferguson in fighting for justice for patients who were prescribed opioids and became addicted, because they were not irresponsible; they were deceived,” Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said. “Addiction to opioids and heroin does not stop at Seattle’s city limits. This is the city’s problem, the state’s problem, and everyone’s problem.” Seattle joins more than two dozen government entities across the United States that are also suing major opioid manufactures to hold them accountable for the opioid epidemic.  Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Toledo are just a few of the major cities that have already filed lawsuits.

The Legal Argument Against OxyContin – Why Washington State Has a Strong Case Against Purdue

According to the Attorney General’s website, here is the legal argument against Purdue. These are essentially the same legal points being made by Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett:

  • Purdue made false claims of safety and lied about the effectiveness of long-term use of Oxy for pain relief. “Purdue aggressively marketed its opioids for chronic pain from conditions like headaches and low back pain, despite a lack of clinical evidence that they are effective and safe for long-term use.”
  • The company made false claims of low addiction risk. Purdue distributed thousands of videos and pamphlets claiming that opioid addiction occurred in less than one percent of patients. The number was not based on a clinical study, but rather a 1980 letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine. The actual addiction rate is as high as 26 percent, according to the Center for Disease Control.” Evidence suggests that we might as well just call prescription opioids legal heroin.
  • Purdue made false claims on risks of overdoses. “Opioids are most dangerous when taken long-term and when taken in high doses. In 2013, the FDA noted that research shows that the risk of misuse and abuse is great for extended-release long-acting opioids and observed that these drugs are often used chronically. Purdue’s sales representatives were trained to reassure prescribers that there is no ceiling on the amount of OxyContin a patient could be prescribed.”
  • Purdue ignored red flags. Purdue sales staff kept detailed records of prescriptions in Washington by the prescriber, drug strength, quantity, and other factors. Purdue then used that data to aggressively market its drugs to the highest prescribers in the state. Washington state medical boards sanctioned some of these prescribers for failing to follow rules related to opioid prescriptions and putting patients at risk. The lawsuit alleges that, in several cases, Purdue salespeople ignored red flags and continued to target these providers with sales pitches.”
  • Purdue violated a previous court order. Purdue has faced court action before over its deceptive marketing of OxyContin. Despite the court order, Purdue has continued to engage in deceptive marketing.”

We’re not lawyers. We’re addiction experts. But, based on what we’re reading here – this seems like an open and shut case. It would appear that Purdue knew OxyContin was dangerous and addictive and it just kept on selling the stuff anyway. To us, that mean the company should be held responsible for the opioid crisis happening in Washington.

Purdue’s Response to the Recent Lawsuits and Allegations

It wouldn’t be fair and balanced reporting if we didn’t include Purdue’s response to the lawsuits. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense,” the company said in a recent statement.

Some Statistics That Put Washington’s Opioid Crisis into Perspective

Although opioids are ravaging the entire country, Washington State has been particularly effected. Here are some statistics offered by the attorney general’s office that might help put Washington’s opioid crisis into perspective:

  • “Between 2009 and 2014, Washington saw a 60 percent increase in opioid-related hospital stays, the fourth-highest increase in the nation.”
  • “In 2015, the number of overdose deaths in Washington exceeded the number of deaths from car accidents, or deaths from firearms — whether from suicide, homicide or accidental.”
  • “The majority of drug overdose deaths in Washington between 2010 and 2015 — more than 6 out of 10 — involved an opioid.
  • “Approximately 80 percent of the homeless population in Washington State have a substance abuse problem.”
  • “Prescriptions and sales of opioids in Washington skyrocketed more than 500 percent between 1997 and 2011.”
  • “In 2011, at the peak of overall sales in Washington, more than 112 million daily doses of all prescription opioids were dispensed in the state — enough for a 16-day supply for every woman, man, and child in Washington.”
  • “More than 18.2 million daily doses of oxycodone were distributed in Washington in 2015.”

Shocking. So, what do you think about Washington State’s lawsuit against Purdue? Do you think the company should have to pay? Weigh in!