EVERETT, Wash. (CN) – A city in Washington state sued pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma for what it says is the irresponsible and lax distribution of the drug Oxycontin, claiming the stream of drugs coming from Purdue escalated law enforcement and social services costs.
The city of Everett filed the 23-page lawsuit on Jan. 19 in Snohomish Superior Court, saying Purdue “recklessly” supplied the synthetic opiate to “suspicious physicians and pharmacies” who diverted the drug to the black market. The city says prevalence of the drug has cost a significant amount of taxpayer money for law enforcement, prosecution, emergency medical services and prisons and jails.
The city’s attorney, Michael Goldfarb, noted this isn’t the first time Purdue has been caught using unprofessional methods to promote Oxycontin. The company was sued in 2007 by several states, including Washington state for pushing the drug to doctors while misrepresenting the addictiveness of the drug. Purdue paid $19.5 million in a multi-state settlement on the allegations, while making $30 billion in Oxycontin sales.
The current claim says Purdue helped get Oxycontin to drug addicts in Everett by filling drug orders to illicit clinics, including a drug ring in California called Lake Medical that helped bring the drug to Washington state for illegal sale. The city also claims Purdue ignored information from its own district managers who voiced concerns about Lake Medical and recommended contacting authorities.
But a Purdue spokesman said the company has a supply-chain policy designed to help prevent misuse of its products and is in compliance with the federal Controlled Substances Act.
“The Controlled Substances Act is designed to form a network of supply chain participants monitoring and acting on available market information, and Purdue has fully participated in that process in compliance with the law,” Purdue’s executive director of communications Bob Josephson said. “Each registrant in the supply chain is responsible for monitoring and reporting suspicious orders to DEA. Once Purdue identifies the potential suspicious activity of a wholesaler’s customer, Purdue informs the wholesaler, so they can perform their due diligence based on their broad access to all the pharmacy’s products, not just Purdue products.”
He added, “While Purdue cannot compel a wholesaler to discontinue shipping to one of its customers, we can and have reduced the product we ship to a wholesaler if we have concerns about the customer at the end of the supply chain.”
Repeated attempts to contact Goldfarb for comment were not returned.
The city’s claims against Purdue include gross negligence, negligence, public nuisance, unjust enrichment and a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. It seeks compensatory, punitive and treble damages, and a ban on further unfair practices.
Goldfarb is with the firm Kelley, Goldfarb, Huck, Roth & Riojas in Seattle.