OxyContin maker asks judge to drop unprecedented Washington city lawsuit

Purdue Pharma has asked a federal judge in Seattle to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the pharmaceutical company by the city of Everett, Wash., which is suing the makers of the highly popular pain medicine OxyContin because of ill effects caused by rampant black market sales of the drug.

It is nearly unprecedented for a local jurisdiction to sue a massive company such as Purdue, but the lawsuit alleges the company was complaisant in the drug’s street sale phenomenon. In legal terms, the city is asking to be compensated based on a charge of gross negligence and nuisance.

“Our community has been significantly damaged, and we need to be made whole,” said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson.

Everett, which has a population of just over 100,000, has faced a growing drug epidemic within the last 10 years. Many citizens who were once addicted to OxyContin have now switched to heroin because it is cheaper, and easily attainable.

Everett asserts Purdue Pharma distributed the OxyContin to unscrupulous doctors and dubious pharmacies, all while ignoring warning signs and refusing to cooperate with law enforcement officials.  Therefore, due to these “callous and unconscionable practices,” the drug manufacturer is directly responsible for the heroin crisis that has engulfed the region.

“We are going to go at them, and we are going to go at them hard,” Stephanson said.

Purdue Pharma, based in Stamford, Conn., counters that there is no legal precedent for local governments to sue private companies and says the amount of time that has passed warrants the case’s dismissal.

“[T]here is no basis in law for a municipality to bring such an action against a pharmaceutical manufacturer,” Purdue Pharma’s legal team wrote.

Everett’s lawsuit was filed in January, but the presiding judge has not yet decided whether or not to dismiss the lawsuit, or let the case proceed.


[Los Angeles Times] [Seattle Times] [AP via The Oregonian] [Photo courtesy New Beginnings]