Photo by frankieleon via Flickr Creative Commons

Seattle and Washington Sue Big Pharma for Seeding Opioid Crisis Via Fraud

Bob Ferguson and Pete Holmes want to reclaim more than a decade of drug profits from Purdue, among others.

City Attorney Pete Holmes and Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson each filed suit on Thursday against Purdue Pharma, whose aggressive promotion of OxyContin and similar prescription drugs led to the current nation-wide spike in heroin/opioid addiction and deaths, as we have previously reported. The suits allege that Purdue knowingly misled doctors and the public about the risks and benefits of synthetic heroin as a medication in order to fuel drug use and the pursuant profits. Both suits seek heavy damages, to be determined at trial.

“Purdue Pharma has knowingly conducted uncontrolled experiments on the people of Washington and the American public,” said Ferguson Thursday morning. “They made billions of dollars fueling the opioid epidemic by knowingly deceiving doctors and the public about opioid abuse. … To push its pills, Purdue made false claims” about overdose risks, addiction risks, and palliative benefits, he said. “When signs of addiction appeared in their patients, Purdue persuaded doctors that what appeared to be addiction was actually an undertreatment of their pain… [and] the proper response was to increase opioid dosages.”

Over the years, Purdue led an agressive campaign to misrepresent the effects of the drugs, according to the suit; a study sponsored by Purdue found that opioids had only “rare incidence of addiction” and a doctor who later become a Purdue executive coined the term “pseudoaddiction,” a theory that no study has validated. Ferguson said Thursday that Purdue told doctors to keep giving synthetic heroin to patients until they were sated, and recommended “no ceiling on the amount of OxyContin a patient could be prescribed.”

As a consequence, use, abuse, and addiction to opioids have spiked, as have related fatalities. In 2015, more than 18.2 million daily doses of oxycodone were distributed in Washington. That same year, more people died in Washington state from drug overdose deaths than from car accidents or firearms. The majority of those deaths involved an opioid. “The devastation is astounding, here and around the country,” said Ferguson. Referring to the corporate executives whose fraud led to patients becoming addicted, he said, “I don’t know how they sleep at night.”

Both suits charge Purdue Pharma. Holmes’s suit for the City of Seattle also targets Teva Pharmaceutical and Endo Pharmaceutical. “Unlike earthquakes and hurricanes, this disaster is human made,” Holmes said.

“Purdue’s conduct, it’s hard to find the right word sometimes,” said Ferguson. “Blinded by profits, they ignored what was going on in our communities for their bottom line. That’s not right. It’s our job to hold them accountable.”

Last year, the Seattle Weekly editorial board called for financial liability for drug companies that seeded the current opioid crisis, writing, “How about we start sending invoices to Purdue Pharmaceuticals?” Ferguson and Holmes’ respective complaints could make that actually happen.

Holmes’ complaint is available here. Ferguson’s is available here.

cjaywork@seattleweekly.com




Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Bret Chiafalo. File photo
Supreme Court says state can punish WA faithless electors

Justices: Presidential electors, including Everett man, must keep pledge to back popular vote winner

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued new guidance allowing the resumption of self-service buffets, salad bars, salsa bars, drink stations and other types of communal food sources in Phase 2. File photo
Buffets and salad bars back on the menu in King County

Gov. Jay Inslee has revised rules to allow self-serve food areas in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening.

Brian Tilley (left) and Katie Dearman work the wash station Friday at Kate’s Greek American Deli in Everett. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Governor’s no-mask, no-service order begins across Washington

“Just do not ring up the sale,” Gov. Jay Inslee said about customers who do not don the proper masks.

King County homeless count: 11,751 people, up 5 percent from 2019

One night a year, volunteers spread out across Seattle and King County… Continue reading

Nurse Sylvia Keller, pictured with Gov. Jay Inslee, is on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle in Yakima County. Courtesy photo
Governor doubles down on mask rules

Inslee: Starting July 7, businesses do not serve those who do not wear a mask

State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Politicians get pay raises, state workers get furloughs

A citizens panel approved the hikes in 2019. Unable to rescind them, lawmakers look to donate their extra earnings.

Human remains in West Seattle identified

Bags of body parts were found in a suitcase along a West Seattle beach on June 19.

Summer vehicle travel projected to decrease this year

Traffic this summer will likely be lighter across Washington state than previous… Continue reading

Most Read