The US city of Everett in the state of Washington is taking Purdue Pharma to court over allegations that it is "allowing OxyContin to be funnelled into the black market, causing the current opioid crisis in Everett."
This is according to a suit filed by the city's Mayor Ray Stephanson, who said: "There is clear evidence that Purdue ignored their responsibility to stop the diversion of OxyContin into the black market, directly leading to the heroin crisis on our streets today.
"Their drive for profit caused this epidemic, which has overwhelmed our treatment and emergency systems. We are taking a stand, and holding Purdue accountable for their actions."
The lawsuit seeks to hold Purdue responsible for "knowingly, recklessly, and/or negligently supplying OxyContin to obviously suspicious physicians and pharmacies and enabling the illegal diversion of OxyContin into the black market, including to drug rings, pill mills and other dealers for dispersal of the highly addictive pills in Everett."
Hil Kaman, the director of public health and safety for the City of Everett, told CBC that there is "no set amount the city is seeking in damages," but says it could be in the tens of millions of dollars.
He added that the city of Everett "possesses internal emails showing efforts to alert the company to its pills being sold on the street."
Purdue hit back at the suit, saying in a statement: "While we are deeply troubled by the abuse and misuse of our medication, this lawsuit paints a completely flawed and inaccurate portrayal of events that led to the crisis in Everett, Washington."
The city is near the southern border of Canada, and a few hours' drive from Vancouver. The city, along with many in North America, is dealing with an opioid addiction epidemic, with many using OxyContin as a so-called "gateway" drug to heroin.
Everett's city council says it has been tackling the problems on the ground, but are now also going after what it says is the source of the problem. It adds that Purdue, like many pharma companies, has been found guilty in the past of using illegal market practices when it comes to selling its medicines. The FDA has also questioned its marketing tactics.
This week, President Donald Trump pledged an extra $500m in his first budget to help combat this growing health problem.