PORTLAND, Ore. — Multnomah County has joined a list of other counties, cities and states in filing a lawsuit against major U.S. pharmaceutical companies, accusing them of pushing doctors to overprescribe opioids such as OxyContin and Percocet despite great risks of addiction.
The Oregonian/OregonLive reported Monday that in the $250 million lawsuit, the county claims pharmaceutical makers and distributors have engaged in a "campaign of lies and deceptions" to drive up profits by selling opioids to the masses.
In 2015, Oregon settled with an Arizona-based drugmaker, Insys Therapeutics, for $1.1 million after accusing the maker of using deceptive marketing to sell the opioid fentanyl.
Multnomah County's lawsuit, filed last week, goes after a much wider field of companies, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Johnson & Johnson, Watson Pharma, the McKesson Drug Co. and several Oregon doctors.
The strategy of suing major drug companies over opioids mirrors a surge in lawsuits filed in the 1990s against the tobacco industry for deceiving the public about the dangers of smoking.
The Multnomah County suit states that opioids should be used only to treat short-term, acute pain and for end-of-life care to ease suffering, but that the pharmaceutical industry has zealously promoted opioid use for chronic pain, resulting in widespread and deadly addictions.
In the U.S. in 2015, more than 33,000 people died from painkiller- or heroin-related use, according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.