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EDITORIAL: Lawsuits against opioid manufacturers could benefit all


Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Wash. (TNS)

While the opioid crisis has engulfed America in tragedy, the pain and grief are not as obvious in the Pacific Northwest as they are in Ohio and other Rust Belt areas suffering economically as industrial factors have closed.

Nevertheless, the opioid crisis – fueled by addiction to prescription pain killers too often followed by heroin use – has hit in Walla Walla and other parts of Washington state. And it’s clear the situation will only grow worse.

So it’s great to see two cities in the state – Everett and Tacoma – are taking legal action against the manufactures of three prescription opioids. Tacoma did so earlier this month.

Melissa Santos of The News Tribune newspaper reported Tacoma is suing three manufacturers alleging the companies’ actions have fueled the city’s homelessness crisis, strained police resources and caused the city’s health insurance costs to skyrocket.

The lawsuit accuses the companies of falsely claiming the risk of becoming addicted to opioids was low, while ignoring the risks of long-term use.

About 30 state and local jurisdictions throughout the nation, including Ohio, have filed similar cases against drug manufacturers.

This approach is likely to yield results, much as when states took Big Tobacco to court, led by Chris Gregoire, Washington’s former attorney general and governor. The settlement forced the companies to pony up cash to mitigate problems from tobacco use. In addition, it pushed Big Tobacco to act more responsibly in peddling its deadly product.

Tacoma is seeking damages of three times the amount of its actual costs, as permitted under the state’s Consumer Protection Act and the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

“In very general terms, this was not just a misrepresentation here and a misrepresentation there,” said David Ko, one of the lead attorneys working on the case. “This was a well-orchestrated, sophisticated scheme over the course of the last 20 years to really deceive doctors, patients and really the entire public about the safety and efficacy of opioids, while simultaneously minimizing the risk associated with consuming them.”

If Tacoma, Everett, Ohio and other governments prevail – and we hope they do – every city and state in America will win. It will put some teeth (and cash) behind the effort to fight the opioid crisis.

Editorials are the opinion of the Union-Bulletin’s Editorial Board. The board is composed of Brian Hunt, Rick Eskil, James Blethen and Alasdair Stewart


)2017 Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.)

Visit Walla Walla Union-Bulletin (Walla Walla, Wash.) at

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AP-WF-09-27-17 0526GMT

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