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Commissioners will pursue lawsuit against drug manufacturers

UPDATED: Tue., April 17, 2018, 10:04 p.m.

Spokane County Commissioners will pursue a lawsuit alleging opioid manufacturers lied about the addictive nature of a prescription drug to doctors and patients.

Commissioners voted to retain law firm Keller Rohrback LLP to represent the county along with cities and counties across the state in the lawsuit.

“As soon as the County and Keller Rohrback, LLP, gather information and data relevant to the County’s potential claims, a lawsuit will be filed against drug manufacturers and wholesalers of opioid medications, who represented to physicians and the public that opioids were safe and effectively treated pain with a low risk for addiction,” according to a statement by Spokane County.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the nationwide economic burden of opioid abuse costs more than $78 billion annually.

“This effort is part of our commitment to build a Spokane County where citizens chose to live, build a career and grow a family,” Commissioner Josh Kerns said in a statement. “This is a complicated issue and we must hold those responsible for this crisis accountable. Spokane County citizens shouldn’t have to foot the bill.”

Tacoma and Everett both filed lawsuits last year against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma. The suit – also filed by Keller Rohrback LLC – was consolidated with other pending lawsuits across the United States against drug manufacturers and sent to a single federal court in the Northern District of Ohio.

The suit alleges prescription drug manufacturers “made and continue to make false and misleading statements about the benefits and risk of opioids and did so through a well-funded marketing and advertising scheme to doctors, patients and the public despite knowing that there was little to no evidence to support their claims.”

Commissioner Al French said the county will use money from a potential settlement to help offset costs of drug treatment.

“In our minds, it was clear that those that have helped perpetuate this community problem should be held accountable and should help pay for some of the treatment that we are having to overtake,” he told The Spokesman-Review on Monday.


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