Washington AG Targets Big Pharma For Spreading Death ‘For Their Bottom Line’

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials in Washington state are suing the pharmaceutical giant behind OxyContin for allegedly deceiving the public on the addiction risks of opioid painkillers.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit Thursday, which accuses Purdue Pharma of knowingly spreading addiction throughout the state in the name of profit. The lawsuit seeks to force Purdue Pharma to forfeit profits made from OxyContin sales in Washington. Roughly 700 residents of the state have died from both prescription opioids and illicit ones like heroin since 2006, reports The Seattle Times.

Pete Holmes, the city attorney for Seattle, also filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical companies Thursday on behalf of the city, targeting Purdue Pharma and Teva Pharmaceuticals. They also allege that false marketing on the risks of painkillers by drug makers contributed to overprescribing by doctors, and the subsequent addiction caused by it. (RELATED: How One Painkiller Ignited The Addiction Epidemic)

“They ignored what was happening … for their bottom line, and that’s not right,” Ferguson said in a news conference Thursday at Harborview Medical Center, according to The Seattle Times. “Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes, this disaster is human-made.”

Attorneys general from a majority of U.S. states are investigating major pharmaceutical companies and their distributors over the worsening opioid crisis ravaging communities across the country. Forty-one state attorneys general are currently demanding answers from drug manufacturers detailing their medications and marketing practices as part of their efforts to determine what role pharmaceutical companies may have played in the current addiction epidemic.

The pharmaceutical industry says they are committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse and helping the federal government ultimately solve the addiction epidemic. The major companies, which are facing a growing number of lawsuits from states and localities across the country, generally deny allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic.

Representatives of Purdue Pharma submitted legal filings against a lawsuit from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, a Republican, launched in May, advising the lawsuit should be dismissed for a litany of reasons including its contradiction of federal drug regulations. They note the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of their medications.

They also argue the lawsuit fails to identify specific cases of harm caused to patients as a direct result of Purdue’s marketing of OxyContin.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 paints a grim outlook for the current opioid crisis ravaging American communities. Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under 50.

The study predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.

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Steve Birr