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Whatcom is suing these drug makers, saying they should help bear the cost of the opioid crisis

The truth about prescription opioids and addiction

Some people might think prescription opioids are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs, but the truth is they carry serious risks and side effects. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and make informed decisions about pain management together.
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Some people might think prescription opioids are safer than alcohol or illegal drugs, but the truth is they carry serious risks and side effects. Talk with your doctor about your concerns and make informed decisions about pain management together.

Whatcom County is joining a widening legal fight against makers and wholesalers of prescription opioids, saying they have contributed to a public health crisis.

On Tuesday, the County Council decided to retain law firm Keller Rohrback in Seattle, which is representing a number of municipalities including Skagit, Pierce and King counties in Washington state.

The vote was 7-0.

"Pretty broad consensus it was a good thing to do for the county," council member Todd Donovan said.

As it has done in its previous filings, the law firm will sue the makers and distributors of opioid painkillers, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and other entities.

The law firm has so far filed lawsuits on behalf of five counties in the state, as well as the City of Tacoma.

Whatcom County isn't paying the law firm, which will be compensated if there's a judgment against the companies, Donovan said.

The county wants help responding to a public health crisis caused by opioids, according to Donovan.

"They are partially liable for over-prescribing these things and marketing them as non-addictive," he said. "They should help us in bearing the cost."

In a separate lawsuit filed in 2017, the state of Washington sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, accusing it of "fueling the opioid epidemic in Washington state."

Jessica McAllister, syringe services program coordinator, explains how naloxone works and what else comes in the naloxone kits available at the Whatcom County Health Department on Tuesday, Aug. 16, in Bellingham.

Kie Relyea: 360-715-2234, @kierelyea
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