Purdue Pharma Not off the Hook for Everett’s Opioid Crisis
U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez in Seattle recently ruled that the city of Everett, Washington, can move forward with its lawsuit against the OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, holding the maker liable for damages to the community. There are just over 100,000 people who reside in Everett, which is just north of Seattle. Many have been affected by the opioid crisis.
The city sued back in January, claiming Purdue Pharma knowingly and purposely allowed pills to make their way to the black market and did nothing to prevent it. Everett believes the manufacturer should be held responsible for associated social and economic consequences.
“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,” said Mayor Ray Stephanson after the initial filing. “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.”
The lawsuit sought specifically 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 in Everett. ”
In March, the Connecticut-headquartered Purdue Pharma had hoped a federal judge would dismiss the case, arguing that the city failed to demonstrate a direct link between the company and any harm done to its community. Company officials also alleged the statute of limitations for which Everett could take legal action had already passed.
Martinez agreed to hear Purdue’s argument for dismissal, but disagreed with their case. His decision to move the lawsuit forward came one week later.
“We look forward to the opportunity to vigorously present our defense,” the company said of the judge’s decision. Purdue submitted documentation earlier this year supposedly supporting its claim to have helped law enforcement officials prosecute the criminal prescribers and pharmacists the company was accused of aiding.
Two of the city’s claims were, in fact, dismissed, but officials have been allowed to amend their initial complaint. They have thirty days to do so.
Everett hopes to recover an unspecified monetary amount for its heroin crisis, which includes valuable time and money spent on public services, such as law enforcement and emergency medical services, as well as counseling and other social services.
“Our systems have been overwhelmed by this crisis, and our community lacks the capacity to respond to and treat the individuals who are suffering from addiction in Everett, ” said Hil Kaman, public health and safety director. “Every City department is dealing with the effects of rampant drug use on our streets, and our neighborhoods and business owners feel the impact as well. Purdue must take responsibility for the devastating consequences of their negligence.”
“We look forward to presenting our full case before the court,” city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said. “We remain committed to holding Purdue Pharma accountable for the damage they have inflicted on our community.”