Before Christine Gregoire was Washington state’s Governor, she was the state attorney general who led the national fight against big tobacco.
In 1997, Gregoire and 38 other attorneys general celebrated a “historic” settlement that required tobacco companies to pay out more than $300 billion in reimbursements to the states for tax dollars spent to treat Medicaid patients for smoking-related health issues.
On Seattle’s Morning News, Gregoire compared the tobacco case with new opioid lawsuits, including the lawsuit targeting Purdue Pharma filed by current state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The lawsuit accuses Purdue, the manufacturer of OxyContin, for fueling the opioid epidemic in Washington.
When it comes to similarities, Gregoire says, “this misrepresentation that appears to be obvious in the opioid addiction problem was very clear in tobacco. The use of doctors in tobacco to promote the product and say it was safe was true in tobacco as it is in the opioid addiction problem.”
“One of the things we had going for us is we had an inside individual who came forward with evidence that was very compelling. Whether the public lawyers have access to anything like that or will get it in the course of discovery I don’t know. I can assure you the pharmaceuticals will defend, defend, defend, just like the tobacco companies.”
Like Big Tobacco, pharmaceutical companies have deep pockets.
“The only way we were to get over that was to share the cost of doing business with as many state attorneys general across the country as we could,” Gregoire said of the fight against big tobacco companies. “The fact that we have three or four suits in Washington state is good to potentially bring them to the table.”
Attorney General Ferguson and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Thursday they were suing several drug makers, including Purdue Pharma, Teva Pharmaceutical, and Endo Pharmaceutical.
More than two dozen states, cities, and counties have brought lawsuits against opioid manufacturers that many officials blame for a national addiction crisis.