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Washington opioid lawsuits against Purdue Pharma inch closer to trial

Attorney General Bob Ferguson is encouraged by Monday's ruling in Oklahoma requiring Johnson & Johnson to pay millions for opioid crisis.

SEATTLE — The state of Washington, along with several cities and counties, are suing drug companies for allegedly fueling the opioid crisis which has claimed thousands of lives.

They said an important ruling in Oklahoma Monday, requiring Johnson & Johnson to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages, is a positive sign for their cases.

“It says we're on the right track here in Washington state,” said Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Ferguson is suing Purdue Pharma, the maker of the drug OxyContin, for allegedly deceiving doctors and patients, and fueling a deadly opioid epidemic which he said claims an average of two lives each day in Washington.

RELATED: OxyContin maker, government attorneys in settlement talks

“The lives lost and harmed as a result of this epidemic is profound, we need dollars to go back into those communities to help people who are suffering from this addiction and to prevent it from happening to others in the future. That's the goal of the litigation,” Ferguson said.

NBC News reported Tuesday that Purdue Pharma is offering $10-12 billion to settle opioid claims. Ferguson said Washington is among 11 states negotiating with the company, but that he intends to take the company to trial.

“Our team is working hard to hold that trial date and have our own day in court against Purdue, who we think is an especially large player in the harm that’s been caused here in Washington state,” Ferguson said.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma denied the allegations made by Washington and other plaintiffs.

RELATED: Judge orders drugmaker to pay $572M over aggressive opioid marketing

“The lawsuits contain allegations, not proven facts. Purdue will continue to defend itself vigorously against any misleading and inflammatory claims. The responsibility for this crisis cannot, as a matter of law, be tied to one company that manufactures a small fraction of the prescription opioids in the United States,” the company said.

Several Washington cities and counties, including Seattle, Everett, and Tacoma, are also suing drug companies over the opioid crisis.

A federal judge in Ohio lumped those and hundreds of other similar cases together.

Three test cases, which don’t include Washington plaintiffs, will go to trial in October. The outcomes will help determine how courts proceed with the other cases.