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.

Both suits are filed in King County Superior Court, and allege that the pharmaceutical companies 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.

The lawsuits are the latest in a long string of efforts to curb the opioid epidemic nationwide.  In Washington, opioids — prescription drugs and heroin — have caused about 700 deaths a year since 2006.  More people died here in 2015 from these drugs than from car accidents or firearms, according to Ferguson’s suit.

Yet the nature of the epidemic has changed over time, causing one researcher to predict that the new litigation will have a modest — though important — effect, while a colleague worried that the pendulum against opioids had swung so far that some people who need them for pain might go without.

In a news conference Thursday at Harborview Medical Center, Ferguson and Holmes introduced their lawsuits. Ferguson said…

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