Washington state mayor looks to sue Purdue Pharma, saying it 'openly put OxyContin into black market'

Mayor Ray Stephanson of Everett, Wash., will ask city council to approve a lawsuit against Purdue Pharmaceuticals for not taking enough action to curb the illicit sale and use of its opioid painkiller OxyContin, according to KIRO 7.

Mr. Stephanson told KIRO 7 the lawsuit would seek reimbursement from the pharmaceutical company for the millions of dollars the city has spent responding to drug overdoses and fighting drug-related crime.

"Purdue Pharmaceuticals was knowingly putting OxyContin into the black market in our community," said Mr. Stephanson.

In 2007, Purdue paid $600 million in fines after pleading guilty to misleading consumers about the potential addictive qualities of OxyContin. In 2010, the drugmaker released an abuse-deterrent version of the pill, which was harder to crush. With OxyContin now more difficult to abuse, addicted individuals instead turned to heroin, spurring a large increase in heroin overdose deaths across the nation.

"Once that drug was not available, those who had gotten addicted turned to heroin and today you can get a bag of heroin on the street for five bucks," said Mr. Stephanson.

Everett officials have been building their case against Purdue since the summer of 2016 when the Los Angeles Times published a comprehensive report on the town's struggles with opioid abuse entitled: "How black-market OxyContin spurred a town's descent into crime, addiction and heartbreak."

"We share public officials' concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions," a Purdue Pharma spokesman told KIRO 7 via email.

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