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Additional PNW Governments Vote To Sue Opioid Manufacturers

The Oregon Health Authority says that on average three Oregonians die each week as a result of opioid abuse.

The Oregon Health Authority says that on average three Oregonians die each week as a result of opioid abuse.

Kristian Foden-Vencil/OPB

UPDATE (1:25 p.m. PST) — Portland City Council and Clark County, Washington, voted this week to file lawsuits against the nation’s opioid manufacturers.

The two jurisdictions are joining about 250 other cities, counties and states, like Multnomah County, that have already filed suit.

They say manufacturers have misled health professionals by marketing opioids as rarely addictive and as a safe substitute for pain medications like ibuprofen.

Portland City Commissioner Chloe Eudaly called it exploitation.

“Entities we trust with our health are preying on our pain and leaving a wake of ruin, grief and untold cost to our communities. So I’m very pleased to vote aye,” she said.

Clark County leaders said they will work with two attorneys at the Seattle-based firm Keller Rohrback and hope to file their lawsuit next month.

Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Emily Sheldrick said Clark County is still narrowing down which companies to target for the lawsuit, but similar lawsuits by Keller Rohrback have been filed against Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

“These pharmaceutical companies allegedly took actions that were deliberate and systematic in providing inaccurate and misleading information to doctors and patients for the last two decades,” Sheldrick said.

Keller Rohrback already represents other Washington cities and counties that have filed similar lawsuits, such as King, Skagit, Pierce and Clallam counties and the cities of Tacoma, Mount Vernon, Burlington and Sedro-Wooley.

At Tuesday’s Clark County Council meeting, council chair Marc Boldt supported the decision to seek legal action against pharmaceutical companies and stressed the importance of dealing with opioid addiction at a local level.

“This will not be handled at the state Legislature, it won’t happen in Congress,” Boldt said. “The only place this will get handled is the local government.”

Drug companies deny the claims and have said litigation should stop until Food and Drug Administration studies on the long-term effects of opioids are completed.

But Purdue Pharma said last week that it’ll stop marketing its drugs to doctors.

The federal judge overseeing hundreds of lawsuits has said he would rather see the epidemic curbed than referee litigation.

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