The mayor of a small town north of Seattle, Washington, is taking the fight against prescription drug abuse to a new level. Mayor Ray Stephanson is suing Purdue Pharma, maker of the powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin, alleging the drugmaker knew its opioid was being sold on the black market in his town of Everett. Since Purdue allowed this illegal activity to continue, the drug company should pay for damages, he alleges.
Stephanson says his working class community of 108,000 people has seen a spike in drug-related deaths and street crimes. As a result, Everett has had to step up police patrols, hire social workers to ride with police officers, and build more permanent housing for the homeless. The drug problem – and the expenses the city has incurred because of it – are expected to grow larger as they have in many communities across the country.
The City of Everett’s lawsuit against Purdue in federal court in Seattle accuses the drug company of gross negligence and nuisance for “supplying OxyContin to obviously suspicious pharmacies and physicians and enabling the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market.”
Purdue has faced numerous lawsuits from individuals and states, but Everett’s case is different because it highlights the results of addiction and the price a city pays when its population is gravely affected by prescription drug abuse.
“Our community has been significantly damaged, and we need to be made whole,” Stephanson argued. He is the city’s longest-serving mayor, having held the post since 2003.