Health Care

Kansas City files suit against opioid manufacturers and distributors, joining others

AP file photo

Kansas City has joined cities and counties across the country in filing suit against a host of opioid manufacturers and distributors, saying the companies created a crisis by deceiving the public about the addictiveness of opioids and failing to properly control their flow.

The suit, filed Thursday in federal court, is much like one filed last month by Jackson County that called the opioid crisis “the worst man-made epidemic in modern medical history,” and the city has retained some of the same lawyers as the county.

“The opioid epidemic is impacting citizens of Kansas City at an alarming rate,” city officials said in an announcement about the suit. “For example, the city had an opioid dispensation rate of more than 586 per 1,000 residents in the second quarter of 2017. Additionally, a significant percentage of zip codes within the city were in the 99th percentile for opioid overuse-related hospital visits between 2005 and 2014.”

City officials say they’re seeking compensation for the funds the city has spent directly fighting opioid abuse, “as well as costs the city has incurred to combat the public nuisance created by the drug companies’ deceptive marketing campaign that misrepresents the safety and efficacy of long-term opioid use.”

Purdue Pharmaceuticals, the maker of Oxycontin, is the top named defendant out of dozens named in the city’s suit. Purdue pushed back against similar lawsuits in a statement to Reuters in May, saying its drugs make up just 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions and it was disappointed it couldn’t reach out-of-court agreements with the plaintiffs.

At least 18 cities and counties in Kansas and Missouri have filed similar lawsuits against the opioid industry now, and more than 400 state and local governments have nationwide.