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Everett sues pharmacuetical co. that makes OxyContin over opioid troubles

EVERETT — In a bold move, Everett is suing OxyContin’s maker with a negligence case that says the city is due damages because the drugmaker’s acts inflamed an opioid crisis that the city was left to combat.
The civil lawsuit accuses Purdue Pharma of knowingly allowing OxyContin to be funneled into the black market recklessly, and that this in turn cost taxpayers money and residents’ lives.
The lawsuit is seen as the first of its kind nationally, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The Times had a linchpin role in the suit after it revealed last July that the drugmaker turned a blind eye about corrupt pharmacies and doctors making abnormally large
pill orders to give a supply feed to drug runners. Purdue knew about numerous suspicious cases, but stayed silent and continued supplying pills until the feds busted the rings, the Times reported.
How this relates to the city is because Interstate 5 is a West Coast drug running corridor, where Everett is the last big northern stop.
A drug dealer named Jevon Lawson, as one case, eagerly utilized his network to hit it big by having hundreds of
thousands of pills sourced from a shady California medical office
trafficked to Everett as a county hub. He was arrested in 2011.
The company also supplied “obviously suspicious physicians and pharmacies in Everett” and elsewhere in the state, the lawsuit states.
The city’s lawsuit seeks to hold Purdue responsible for “knowingly, recklessly, and/or negligently supplying OxyContin to obviously suspicious physicians and pharmacies and enabling the
illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market, including to drug rings, pill mills and other dealers for dispersal of the highly addictive pills.”’
Purdue, based in Connecticut, responded to the Times’ report at the time saying that the paper distorted the company’s role in pill distribution and blamed wholesale middlemen in the supply chain for the issues.
OxyContin is one of the nation’s top-selling pain-killers. It is a variant of oxycodone, of which other variants are branded as Percocet or Roxicet. The difference is that OxyContin is pure oxycodone.
It and other prescription opioids share chemical compounds with heroin.
OxyContin came on the market in 1996, and by the mid-2000s pill abuse usurped methamphetamine as law enforcement’s biggest narcotics concern.
When OxyContin was reformulated in 2010 to be harder to crush to snort for an instant rushing high, numerous users turned to heroin. Now there is a heroin epidemic.
The addiction risk was real.
How OxyContin was marketed might have had an effect. An exhaustive, separate Los Angeles Times investigation noted that OxyContin was marketed to be prescribed for one pill every 12 hours, but in real life the dosages constantly fell short, causing people to fall into withdrawal, anxious for more pills.
In 2007, Purdue lost a multi-state lawsuit for its marketing practices and, in this state,
was required to agree to keep tight control to prevent the pills from being diverted into the black market.
A Purdue spokesman gave the Tribune this statement: “We share public officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions. Although OxyContin accounts for only 2 percent of all pain-related opioid prescriptions, Purdue is an industry leader in abuse deterrence as we were the first pharmaceutical company to develop an opioid medication with abuse-deterrent properties,” speaking to the 2010 reformulation.
Mayor Ray Stephanson announced the lawsuit at his annual state of the city address last week.
“There is clear evidence that Purdue ignored their responsibility to stop the diversion of OxyContin into the black market, directly leading to the heroin crisis on our streets today,” Stephan-son said. “Their drive for profit caused this epidemic, which has overwhelmed our treatment and emergency systems. We are taking a stand, and holding Purdue accountable for their actions.”
People complimented the city at last week’s council meeting for taking action. One of those was Debbie Warfield, who lost her son Spencer after painkillers turned him onto heroin. He overdosed on heroin in 2012.
Another resident who needs painkillers for a nerve disability issue warned that patient access restrictions have harmed her. She said she’s been refused a prescription by ER doctors multiple times.
The 23-page lawsuit was filed in Snohomish County Superior Court on Thursday.
In it, Everett wants to hold Purdue “accountable for the benefit of the public,” and calls for reimbursements. The figures are to be determined at trial. A Seattle firm is representing the city.

The full lawsuit filing is available at a city webpage: www.everettwa.gov/purdue


 

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