In the battle against opioids, one city blames drug makers

EVERETT, Wash. -- In another battle in the opioid crisis, the city of Everett, Washington claims its heroin crisis has been fueled by the aggressive distribution and abundant supply of the pain pill OxyContin.

The city is suing Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the pain medication, for allowing its pills to flood into Everett. Pain pills like OxyContin can be highly-addictive and act as a gateway to heroin use. 

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The city of Everett, Washington, is suing Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin.

CBS News

Everett is littered with camps filled with makeshift tents and the tools used to get high off heroin.

“Sometimes it’s really difficult for people to stay clean,” said social worker Kaitlyn Dowd. She says it has become an epidemic.

Near a trail of needles, baggies, spoons and foil, Dowd said, “It’s everywhere.” 

Debbie Warfield’s son Spencer died from a heroin overdose in 2012. Warfield blames OxyContin, saying that’s where his addiction began.
    
“Oxycontin and heroin has taken such a toll on our family for the rest of our lives,” Warfield says.

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The city of Everett, Washington, is suing Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin.

CBS News

The lawsuit claims Purdue “knowingly, recklessly, and/or negligently” supplied OxyContin to “suspicious” physicians and pharmacies. It alleges Purdue monitored the illegal trafficking of its pills, knew high volumes were being distributed and didn’t share the information with law enforcement.

“I believe it’s about greed, and they need to be held accountable to make our community whole,” says Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson

Purdue Pharma declined a request for an interview, but says it has a strong record of working with law enforcement and  information it has provided in some drug cases has led to convictions.

In a statement, Purdue told CBS News the lawsuit “paints a completely flawed and inaccurate portrayal of events that led to the crisis in Everett.”

Stephanson says the lawsuit is about rebuilding his community.

“They give corporations a bad name. They’ve affected lives, people have died, and I believe they need to be held accountable and will be,” Stephanson says.

Purdue also said they look forward to presenting the facts in court. Everett’s mayor says if they win any money from Purdue, they’ll use it for treatment programs and law enforcement.