OxyContin, in 80 mg pills, in a 2013 file image. (Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

SF sues drug makers, distributors over role in opioid epidemic

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued an array of prescription drug makers and distributors today, accusing them of fraudulent practices and the creation of a public nuisance in contributing to the opioid epidemic.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of the city of San Francisco and the state of California.

It is expected to be transferred to federal court in Ohio, where U.S. District Judge Dan Polster of Cleveland is coordinating more than 1,200 similar lawsuits filed nationwide by cities, counties, states, Native American tribes and other groups.

The San Francisco lawsuit accuses drug makers such as Purdue Pharma of misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of pain-killing opioid drugs such as OxyContin, oxycodone and fentanyl.

It accuses wholesalers such as San Francisco-based McKesson Corp. of failing to effectively monitor and report suspicious sales of the drugs as required by state and federal laws.

McKesson spokeswoman April Marks said the company does not comment on specific lawsuits.

But she noted that in general, the company has stated it maintains “strong programs designed to detect and prevent opioid diversion within the pharmaceutical supply chain” and reports suspicious sales to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The lawsuit cites California Department of Public Health statistics showing that opioid addiction caused the deaths of more than 2,190 Californians in 2017.

It is based on legal claims of creation of a public nuisance, negligence, unfair and fraudulent business practices under California law and creation of a fraudulent enterprise in violation of federal racketeering law.

The suit asks for financial compensation for the costs of treating opioid addiction and an injunction halting the alleged false marketing and failure to report suspicious sales.

-Julia Cheever, Bay City NewsBay Area News

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