The City of Portland is about to jump into the fight against opioid manufacturers.
A resolution set to come before Portland City Council next week will authorize the City Attorney's office to join hundreds of other jurisdictions around the country—including Multnomah County—that are suing drugmakers for what they say were irresponsible business practices that led to the opioid epidemic being felt nationwide. The city's rationale: that crisis has ratcheted up costs for firefighters who distribute overdose-fighting drugs, has contributed to Portland's housing and homelessness problem, and has cost the city money in treating opioid addictions for those covered by its health insurance, among other things.
"Manufacturers knowingly misled doctors and patients regarding the benefits of prescription opioids for treatment of chronic pain and trivialized the significant risk of addiction," reads an impact statement filed with the resolution. "At the same time, distributors failed to monitor prescription opioid distribution and report suspicious orders. These actions resulted in an opioid epidemic, involving a dramatic increase in opioid addiction and overdose deaths. Manufacturers and distributors of prescription opioids have experienced significant profits, while the City of Portland, like other jurisdictions, has borne the increased costs for emergency medical services, policing, housing, and medical expenses."
The resolution doesn't list which specific manufacturers the city plans to sue, or how much money it will seek. If it follows the lead of county officials, companies like Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, and Johnson & Johnson could be on the list of defendants. Multnomah County's ongoing lawsuit seeks $250 million.
The action—all but certain to pass—comes at an interesting time. Attention has begun to shift back to the toll methamphetamine use has taken in Oregon. A story that ran this week in the New York Times was centered in Portland, and noted that deaths related to meth occur in Oregon at a far higher rate than heroin-related deaths.
“Everybody has meth around here — everybody,” one heroin user told the paper. “It’s the easiest to find.”