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City of Yukon sues pharmaceutical companies

The city of Yukon has filed a lawsuit against more than a dozen pharmaceutical companies, joining several other local governments in accusing the companies of pushing their medications and creating an opioid crisis in the community.

The city filed its lawsuit Thursday in Canadian County District Court.

The lawsuit names Purdue Pharma, along with 33 other pharmaceutical companies, distributors and doctors.

Purdue Pharma manufactures OxyContin, and announced this week that it was exploring the possibility of filing for bankruptcy as a result of thousands of lawsuits that have been filed.

Dozens of cities, county and tribal governments have filed suit in Oklahoma courts over the past 18 months claiming the pharmaceutical companies contributed to the state’s opioid crisis.

In the 78-page lawsuit, the city claims that because of “corporate greed” the city has expended substantial amounts annually to battle the opioid epidemic.

That epidemic, it claims, is because of the defendants’ negligence.

The city claims it is bringing the action in its efforts to protect the health, safety and welfare of its residents.

The lawsuit claims that opioids are highly addictive and have been prescribed for years in limited circumstances to patients with cancer, terminal illnesses or acute short-term pain.

The companies benefit because they manufacture and distribute medication.

However, the city claims the companies tried to maximize their profits by encouraging the use of the drugs by a a larger range of patients for longer periods of time.

The suit also claims the companies attempted to downplay the risk of opioid addiction and overstated the benefits of opioids for more wide-ranging conditions.

The lawsuit used the sales of OxyContin as an example.

Between 1996 and 2009, the sale of the medication rose from approximately $48 million to more than $3 billion.

It also claims the companies failed to follow the processes that would stop suspicious or unusual orders of the medications by pharmacies.

“The defendants also flood the market with false declarations designed to convince doctors, patients and government entities that prescription opioids posed a low risk of addiction,” the lawsuit states.

“Those claims were false, and the defendants knew it,” it said.

The lawsuit claims that more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers such as hydrocodone, methadone, oxycodone and oxymorphone.

It also claims the use of prescription painkillers for nonmedical reasons has contributed to an increased number of overdoses and deaths.

In 2010, one in every 20 people over the age of 12, reported using a prescription painkiller for nonmedical reasons.  That equals about 12 million people, the lawsuit said.

Drug overdoses, in 2016, were blamed for the deaths about 64,000 people in the U.S. That number increased to almost 72,000 in 2017.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of negligence, fraud, civil conspiracy and unjust enrichment.

The city is seeking a judgment for actual damages, the future costs related to abate the ongoing public nuisance caused by the opioid epidemic and requiring the payment of punitive damages.

A similar lawsuit was filed Nov. 29 in Canadian County by the Cheyenne-Arapaho tribes. It has since been moved to U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, where it is pending.

A hearing date on the Yukon case has not been set.

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