Boise sues pharmaceutical companies over opioid abuse

Mayor David Bieter announces the city's lawsuits against 20 pharmaceutical companies. (CBS 2)

Boise Mayor David Bieter Thursday announced that the City of Boise is suing 20 pharmaceutical companies for their role in the ongoing escalation of the national and local opioid crisis.

The suit, which will be filed today in the U.S. District Court in Idaho, seeks compensation from the drug makers for promoting opioids to treat chronic health issues while downplaying the risk of addiction, deceiving doctors about health risks associated with opioid products and focusing sales efforts on doctors known to over-prescribe and failing to investigate and report suspicious opioid orders to law enforcement and take steps to prevent their products from being diverted onto the black market.

“The swath of destruction to lives and families caused by opioids cuts across all ages, races and economic levels,” Mayor Bieter said. “In all likelihood, you know someone struggling with opioid addiction – a co-worker, a friend, a family member. It’s time we look to those profiting from this misfortune and hold them accountable for what they have caused.”

The trends are troubling, Mayor Bieter pointed out. In Boise alone, one opioid death was reported in 2013; in 2017 there were 110. Similar trends are being seen across the Treasure Valley and Idaho. The suit points out that opioid prescriptions in Idaho increased 41 percent between 2009 and 2015.

Mayor Bieter made the announcement joined by Boise Police Chief William Bones, Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan and acting City Attorney Natalie Camacho Mendoza.

He was also joined by Scott Fischer whose 19-year-old son, Carter, died of a heroin overdose in September just a few months after graduating from Boise High School. Carter became addicted to prescription opioids through secret recreational use with his friends.

“My son, like too many other children in the Treasure Valley, fell victim to a drug that had become far too easy to find,” said Fischer. “Our children are dying from an epidemic that started in our own medicine cabinets. It’s time to fight back in every way possible.”

In the suit, the City of Boise makes three primary claims against opioid drug makers:

Also, the suit is likely to be relocated to a national lawsuit pending in Cleveland, Ohio, known as the “multi-district litigation.” That lawsuit includes most of the American public entities that have filed similar cases. Joining the national suit is the most efficient and cost-effective way to pursue the suit, the city said.

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