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City Of Tacoma Sues Three Manufacturers Of Prescription Opioids

Vincent Milum Jr., Tacoma Fire Department
The city of Tacoma says it's experiencing higher turnover among firefighters in part due to the stress of responding to a rising number of opioid overdoses.

Tacoma is suing Purdue Pharma and two other companies, Endo and Janssen, that make prescription opioids.

In its lawsuit, Tacoma says it’s had to bear the financial costs of the opioid crisis in many ways – in terms of fire and police response to overdoses as well as paying for the prescription drugs for employees who get health insurance from the city.

For example, the city says its fire department administered naloxone, a drug used to reverse overdoses, 153 times last year, up 50 percent from 2013. The stress of handling overdoses has led to higher turnover among firefighters, according to the lawsuit.

The suit comes after the City of Everett sued Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the prescription painkiller OxyContin, earlier this year.

David Ko, an attorney with the firm Keller Rohrback, which is representing Tacoma in its lawsuit, said the manufacturers were negligent.

“They really pushed these pills as a panacea for all sorts of pain and they did so on very little or no evidence,” Ko said.

Spokespeople for the manufacturers said the companies are committed to patient safety and to preventing misuse of the drugs.

A spokeswoman for Endo declined to comment on the litigation. Spokespeople for Purdue Pharma and Janssen deny the allegations.

Purdue Pharma said it’s committed to helping alleviate the opioid crisis, for example by supporting access to naloxone and advocating for prescription drug monitoring programs.

The Tacoma case was filed in U.S. District Court in Tacoma. Everett’s case has a hearing on Monday in U.S. District Court in Seattle. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.