The Snohomish County Council unanimously voted Monday to file a civil lawsuit against the companies responsible for making and distributing OxyContin. 

The lawsuit claims Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, McKesson Pharmaceutical, the distributors of OxyContin and other opioids, and others caused harm to Snohomish County by “recklessly ignoring criminal activity and pursuing corporate interests over the interests of our residents.”

The lawsuit aims to hold the defendants accountable for the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market and other dealers for distribution of the pills in Snohomish County.

“Opioids are a menace to public safety and our families,” said Terry Ryan, Chair of the Snohomish County Council. “This lawsuit is our way of holding these companies accountable to our residents. Nothing can bring back sobriety or peace of mind, but this can help to ensure that other communities won’t be harmed in the future.”

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OxyContin, a highly addictive opioid pill, is a common first step to heroin and fentanyl addiction and has been identified as a primary contributor to opioid addiction. 

“By filing this civil lawsuit, we are trying to force these companies to take responsibility for their reckless actions. That is the surest path for protecting our community and others like us,” said Adam Cornell, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney.

“We have had to spend significant resources to address the public health and public safety impacts of opioid addiction,” said Nate Nehring, Vice Chair of the Snohomish County Council. “My hope is that with the help of today’s action, families can avoid the pain and suffering of having a loved one become addicted to opioids.”

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The lawsuit details examples of the defendants’ misconduct based on internal Purdue and McKesson emails and documents. According to a press release, the complaint chronicles a Los Angeles area drug ring distributing OxyContin on the black market and into Snohomish County with transparently false OxyContin orders. The companies’ took no action against the drug ring and continued to supply “massive and disturbing quantities of OxyContin” until it was shut down by law enforcement. 

“We are filing this lawsuit on behalf of every family member who suffers from opioid addiction and our residents who have had to bear the burden of crime and disorder brought on by addiction,” said Sam Low, Snohomish County Councilmember. “It is clear from the evidence that our opioid epidemic was not a random natural event but instead a calculated attempt to victimize our residents.”

The lawsuit was filed with the support of the Snohomish County prosecuting attorney, Snohomish County executive, and the Snohomish County sheriff.

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