Oxycontin maker tries to block lawsuit by opioid-afflicted city

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Fueling the opioid epidemic nationwide, drug dealers are illicitly trafficking in opioid drugs like OxyContin that are manufactured in great abundance. While the drugs themselves are “legal” and FDA-approved, they are available by prescription only, and fall under the category of controlled substances. What is the responsibility of the manufacturer drug to prevent illegal sales and use? What if a manufacturer can be shown to have secretly supported such sales? Where does the law come down? If a lawsuit filed by a city in Washington State goes forward, it will be a test case for finding the answer.


Early this year Everett, a small city north of Seattle, brought a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, that alleges the company knowing allowed OxyContin pills to be channeled into the black market and consequently into Everett. In September, Purdue asked U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo S. Martinez to toss the lawsuit. Christopher Huck, attorney for the city, has contended that the plaintiff should be allowed to make its case at trial. According to the Charlotte Observer, he “told the judge that Purdue knowingly put their painkillers into a supply chain they knew ended at an organized drug ring, and the city has suffered for it.”


Purdue’s attorney argued that no proof exists that Purdue was selling to drug dealers, because it provides OxyContin to a wholesaler. The Los Angeles Times had reported, however, that Purdue had evidence that pointed to illegal trafficking of its pills, but in many cases did nothing to notify authorities or stop the flow. The report prompted the Everett lawsuit, which does not specify the damages the city is seeking. Judge Martinez noted that the interesting case presents some novel legal issues.


Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson told the media, “Our city has been significantly damaged. Obviously, we hope the case is not dismissed and goes forward on its merits,” the mayor said outside the courtroom. “Our community needs help. And clearly we believe our city has been damaged by this crisis.”


In September Tacoma, another city in Washington, sued Purdue and two other opioid manufacturers, Endo Health Solutions and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, for “making false and misleading statements about the benefits and risks of opioids to doctors and patients over the past two decades.”


Richard Manger, principal of Manger Law Firm, has extensive experience in litigation and settlements, with a focus on personal injury and workers’ compensation law. We are proud of the strong relationships of loyalty and trust we develop with our clients. We go above and beyond to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. You can contact Richard Manger via email at ram@mangerlaw.com, or by calling (336) 882-2000.

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