Mayor seeking to sue maker of OxyContin over opioid epidemic

EVERETT, Wash. -- This city’s mayor says he will ask the City Council to authorize a lawsuit against the maker of OxyContin, alleging Purdue Pharma knew the painkiller was being diverted to the illicit  market and didn’t do enough to stop it.

Mayor Ray Stephanson tells CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV the city will seek reimbursement from Purdue Pharma for tens of millions of dollars the city has spent responding to overdoses and drug-related crimes.

“Purdue Pharmaceuticals was knowingly putting OxyContin into the black market in our community,” Stephanson said.

The city also alleges the company did not stop its pills from being diverted to illegal traffickers, who sold them in Everett between 2007 and 2010, when OxyContin was reformulated to prevent abuse.

“Once that drug was not available, those who had gotten addicted turned to heroin and today you can get a bag of heroin on the street for five bucks,” Stephanson said.

In response to a request from KIRO, a Purdue Pharma spokesman emailed, “We share public officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions.”

The company also said OxyContin accounts for only 2 percent of all pain-related opioid prescriptions.

KIRO asked Stephanson how the city could blame a single company for the opioid epidemic.

“I think we will prove with this lawsuit, and when the lawsuit proceeds, that Purdue Pharmaceuticals was a major contributor to this issue,” Stephanson responded.

City officials have been building their case since last summer, when a Los Angeles Times story detailed the flow of OxyContin from California to Everett.