In January, the L.A. Times reported that the city of Everett, Washington, prompted by the L.A. Times’ 2016 investigation (summarized here), filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, alleging that the company turned a blind eye to the criminal sale of Oxycontin in Everett while the company went on to “reap large and obscene profits.”
The civil complaint, filed by Everett city lawyers, alleges that Purdue is guilty of gross negligence, creating a public nuisance, and that the company should pay the cost of handling the now severe opioid crisis in Everett, as well as punitive damages–figures that could run in the millions of dollars.
This is a bold move on the part of a municipality, and the first of its kind (that I’m aware of) to take place against Purdue Pharma. Since federal regulators (FDA, DEA) have been unsuccessful in their efforts to curb the opioid epidemic in the United States, it may be up to individual litigants, and even cities, like Everett, to assert the misconduct of Purdue Pharma in court, and to hold the drug-making giant accountable for its incredibly lax practices which lead, to the current rampant opioid abuse in the U.S. today.
Although the likelihood of Everett’s success on the merits is low, I applaud the city of Everett and its lawyers for paving the way for future lawsuits from other municipalities, and hopefully holding Purdue Pharma accountable for its unethical practices. I’m a big believer in the free market. I’m also an equally big believer in holding people and companies accountable for unethical behavior, particularly when those entities have knowledge of how their product is harming the public, yet refuse to act on it for decades.
What do you think? Feel free to comment below with thoughts on Everett’s lawsuit, Purdue Pharma, and potential solutions to the opioid epidemic.