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Washington state sues opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma

By Nate Raymond

By Nate Raymond

(Reuters) - Washington state on Thursday sued OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP, becoming the latest state or local government to file a lawsuit seeking to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for a national opioid addiction epidemic.

The city of Seattle also filed a separate lawsuit against Purdue as well as units of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd, Johnson & Johnson, Endo International Plc and Allergan plc.

The lawsuit by Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson accused Purdue of deceptive marketing of OxyContin and convincing doctors and the public that its drugs had a low-risk of addiction and were effective for treating chronic pain.

"People came in showing signs of addiction," Ferguson said. "Purdue's response was that’s not addiction."

Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue said in a statement that it was "deeply troubled" by the opioid crisis and that its U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved products account for just 2 percent of all opioid prescriptions.

"We vigorously deny these allegations and look forward to the opportunity to present our defense," Purdue said.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids were involved in over 33,000 deaths in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. The death rate has continued rising, according to estimates.

The lawsuit followed a wave of cases against drugmakers by Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Ohio, Missouri, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as several cities and counties in states including California, Illinois and New York.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Susan Thomas)