The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office recently announced that it has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the Western District of Washington against U.S. manufacturers of prescription opioids and three primary U.S. wholesale distributers of prescription opioids.
The lawsuit claims that the defendants violated the Washington Consumer Protection Act and the RICO statute, and that their actions comprised a public nuisance, gross negligence, and unjust enrichment under state law.
The complaint further alleges that Thurston County has been harmed by the widespread distribution of opioid drugs and by the misleading information provided to doctors and patients about the dangers of prescription opioids. The rise in opioid use has been connected to the rise in heroin use in the region and across the country. Some users of opioids start using heroin when they can no longer acquire opioids through a prescription.
“Opioid addiction has reached epidemic levels in Thurston County and opioid related deaths have increased dramatically over the past decade. We believe these companies directly contributed to the creation of this epidemic,” stated Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim, who initiated the litigation on behalf of the county.
According to Thurston County’s Public Health and Social Services Director, Schelli Slaughter, about half of all individuals who utilized the county’s syringe exchange program reported that heroin was the primary drug they were using.
“There’s no question the opioid crisis is a public emergency,” Slaughter said. “We know that people from all walks of life are struggling with addiction, and that needs to be addressed not just on the streets, but at the source.”
The Seattle-based law firm Keller Rohrback is partnering with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office in the lawsuit. Keller Rohrback has also filed similar suits on behalf of King County, Skagit County, Pierce County, and other cities in the area.