The Spokane City Council voted unanimously Monday night to ask the city’s legal department to explore suing opioid manufacturers and distributors for their role in the opioid epidemic.
The resolution asks the city’s legal department to research how feasible it would be for the city to sue opioid manufacturers and distributors.
Spokane County is one of several counties across the state of Washington that has had more opioid prescriptions written than people living here. According to Washington state Department of Health prescription monitoring data from 2014, there were more than 520,000 opioid prescriptions in the county. There were about 480,000 people in Spokane County.
Councilwoman Kate Burke, the youngest member of the council at 30, said her generation is probably the first to grow up with opioids in their parents’ medicine cabinets.
She said some of her friends from high school have died or are now in recovery after becoming addicted as teenagers.
“I’ve lost probably five or six friends to overdoses from this drug,” she said.
She said opioid manufacturers and makers have done a disservice to the people of Spokane by not sharing the long-term effects of the painkilling drugs on people.
Several other government agencies and Washington’s attorney general have sued opioid manufacturers for allegedly lying about how addictive the painkillers are and not intervening when medical providers ordered suspiciously large amounts of drugs.
Spokane, Pierce, Thurston, Clark, Whatcom, Walla Walla, Kitsap and Whitman counties already have sued opioid manufacturers or distributors. The cities of Tacoma, Seattle, Olympia and Kent have sued as well.
Councilman Breean Beggs, who co-sponsored the resolution with City Council President Ben Stuckart, said when the city was looking at a potential lawsuit last year, it seemed that it might cost the city more in legal fees than would benefit Spokane’s citizens. Now that other governments have sued, it may be a better time to join.
“If we don’t do it, when the odds are that we would win, we’re basically saying our taxpayers would have to pay the result of the bad acts of a few manufacturers that took advantage of a whole nation for a profit,” Beggs said.
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