BOISE — The City of Boise announced Thursday that it is filing a lawsuit against 20 pharmaceutical companies for their alleged role in the ongoing escalation of the national and local opioid crisis.
The lawsuit is one of many across the nation being filed against pharmaceutical companies on behalf of cities. Boise Mayor Dave Bieter said it's a good step in combating the opioid epidemic that just last year claimed 110 lives in Boise.
The City of Boise claims three things in the lawsuit. The drug makers promoted 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. Lastly, 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.
"We want to emphasize this is part of a holistic approach including education, prevention, treatment, law enforcement efforts, and the medical community," Bieter said.
In Thursday's press conference outlining the lawsuit, a Boise father talked about the impact the opioid epidemic has had on his family. His son, Carter, overdosed in September.
"His future was bright and he was one of Boise's finest," said Scott Fischer.
Fischer says the 19-year-old athlete and musician had just graduated from Boise High School. He says Carter started popping prescription drugs at a high school party.
"For Carter, the pills were powerful. He was addicted immediately," Fischer said.
Fischer says when his son couldn't afford the pills anymore he turned to heroin which is cheap and easy to get on the street.
"We were heartbroken, ashamed, filled with uncertainty about what to do," he said.
Carter went into treatment for his addiction, but died just days after getting out.
"He's gone, but his spirit lives on," Fischer said. "That spirit demands we help those who are still here. Those threatened by this horrible drug, a drug that often becomes the last and cheapest resort, for those whose addiction is rooted in powerful opioids being made by these pharmaceutical companies and spill in with little accountability into our communities."
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Idaho on Thursday. It's likely to be relocated to a national lawsuit that is pending in Cleveland, Ohio. It's known as the Multi-District Litigation. That lawsuit includes most of the American public entities that have filed similar cases.
Bieter says joining the national suit is the most efficient and cost-effective way to pursue the suit.