Purdue, the manufacturer of the controversial opioid OxyContin, settled a lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma Attorney General for $270 million. A detailed article on the nature of the landmark settlement is available here.
A suit filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter against Purdue Pharma alleged the drug manufacturer—through aggressive marketing of OxyContin—fueled the opioid crisis in the U.S. and declared that deceptive claims severely downplayed the risk of addiction. AG Hunter sought $20 billion dollars against Purdue, Teva Pharmaceuticals, and Johnson & Johnson.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioid overdoses killed more than 47,000 people in 2017. They also state epidemic abuse of opioids cost the U.S. $78.5 billion in healthcare, incarceration, and law enforcement in 2013. The White House Council of Economic Advisers placed the 2015 cost at more than $500 billion.
Closer to home, Oklahoma estimates the opioid crisis will cost the state nearly $9 billion. Attorneys for the plaintiffs allege the manufacturer convinced doctors and patients these products were safe and non-addictive. The Oklahoma AG contends Purdue and other manufacturers misrepresented the addictive qualities of opioid drugs, which led to thousands of deaths across the state.
The settlement, which came after the Oklahoma State Supreme Court denied Purdue’s request to delay the trial, marks the first among over 1,600 cases. Nearly two dozen defendants have been named in those suits, which have been consolidated in federal court. The settlement will establish a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University, to be funded with $102.5 million from Purdue and $75 million from the family who owns the company.
Another news source reports Purdue is considering bankruptcy. Experts say future settlements or jury verdicts against the company could total tens of billions of dollars. Oklahoma will press its case against both Teva and Johnson & Johnson in a trial scheduled to begin on May 28th.
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