FARGO — Cass County and the city of Grand Forks have joined in a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, a company at the center of the opioid crisis, and related companies in an effort to recoup unspecified damages associated with the wave of addictions and overdoses.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in North Dakota and is separate from a suit filed earlier by the North Dakota attorney general against Purdue, which is expected to seek bankruptcy protection.
“North Dakota has not been spared the tragedies stemming from the crisis,” stated the lawsuit from Cass County and Grand Forks. The number of deaths related to opioid overdoses more than tripled in the state from 2013 to 2015, and the use of heroin increased by 400 percent, according to the lawsuit.
In 2016, the Cass County coroner attributed 31 deaths to opioid overdose, and Grand Forks saw three opioid overdose deaths that year.
Those deaths stemmed partly from saturation prescription of opioids, the lawsuit contends, noting that about 466,000 opioid prescriptions were written in 2015.
The following year, in 2016, the state’s medical examiners reported 54 opioid overdose deaths.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, Purdue and its partners began aggressively marketing opioids, fraudulently undermining established medical science that showed the dangers of long-term opioid use, the lawsuit said.
“They infiltrated academic medicine and regulatory agencies to convince doctors that treating chronic pain with long-term opioids was evidence-based medicine when, in fact, it was not,” the suit added. “Huge profits resulted from these efforts, as did the present addiction and overdose crisis.”