Sue the Drug Companies

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. Such marketing continued, according to his complaint, despite a 2007 court order in a prior lawsuit brought by Washington and 25 other states over the same issue.

The order prohibited Purdue from understating risks of abuse and addiction, and also required the company to take action when it became aware of overprescribing “pill mills.” And yet, Fergson’s lawsuit claims, Purdue  looked the other way when confronted with red flags.

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

Holmes said Seattle’s lawsuit would seek to “recover what’s been lost” because of the opioid epidemic. The suit refers to defendants as the makers of brand names like OxyContin and Percocet as well as generics such as oxycodone and hydrocodone.

He said the city spends millions each year for first responders who deal with overdoses, social workers who help treat people with addiction, and park employees who pick up needles instead of doing other work.

Holmes also linked the epidemic to the city’s homelessness crisis. He referenced a 2016 city assessment that concluded a main cause of someone losing their home, second only to job loss, was drug addiction. “Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes, this disaster is human-made,” Holmes said.

Purdue issued a statement Thursday in response to the lawsuits, saying it was seeking motions to dismiss similar suits in other states.

“We are deeply troubled by the opioid crisis and we are 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,” the statement said. “We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense.”
Earlier this month, Tacoma sued three opioid makers, and on Tuesday a federal judge ruled that a lawsuit filed by Everett against Purdue could proceed. These municipalities hope to recoup costs for responding to drug addiction, including money spent on emergencies and social services.
My opinion? Kudos to WA Attorney General Bob Ferguson and City Attorney Pete Holmes for having the courage to file these lawsuits. More power to them. I hope they recover a huge amount of damages from these companies and make positive change happen.
As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen an increase of otherwise upstanding and law-abiding citizens commit crimes because of their drug addictions. The trend is disturbing. It begins with people suffering from physical injuries or mental sicknesses. They take pain killers prescribed from a doctor. Eventually, the person gets addicted to the pain killers, loses their medical insurance and turns to street drugs like heroin or methamphetamine to continue supporting their drug habit.
Sure, it’s easy to label people as drug abusers who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. However, it’s harder to call people drug abusers when the drug is sold as “medicine” which is (over)prescribed from a doctor. Many addicts – again, good people, mind you – end up homeless. Indeed, recent data shows that opiate use has increased in homeless populations.
Finally, our government is acknowledging these trends. Washington State is not the only state suing drug companies like Purdue. Oklahoma, Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi, and New Hampshire are also suing. Delaware and many others are considering it.
When OxyContin came out, it was promoted to healthcare practitioners as a “wonder-drug.” The initial 1995 literature and in-service training about this new med in the hospitals and clinics back then was that it was better than morphine, because it was more powerful, less addictive, and lasted longer (sustained release).
The drug maker was aggressive in hiring doctors and nurses to promote this drug. It was successful and number of prescriptions soared. The sales pitch was OxyContin relieved the patient’s pain better and with lower risk of the addictive side effect. After all, who wouldn’t want to help their patients by giving them the best possible treatment? Purdue spent $200 million in 2001 for marketing. In 2002, it made $1.5 billion in sales.
What many people found out later was this drug was highly addictive as they saw high rates of addiction and overdoses. This caught the attention of the Department of Justice. In 2007, Purdue – the maker of OxyContin – paid out over $600 million in civil and three of its executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges for failing to brand the drug’s addiction risks. 

It’s time to prevent drug companies from poisoning our communities.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges related to drug addiction. It’s important to have a caring, competent and experienced criminal defense attorney who fights for your constitutional rights, supports your defenses and understands the story behind the charges. Call today.

Alexander F. Ransom

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

119 North Commercial St.
Suite #1420
Bellingham, WA 98225

117 North 1st Street
Suite #27
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Phone: (360) 746-2642
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