The maker of OxyContin and the company's controlling family agreed to pay $270 million in a deal announced Tuesday with the state of Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped set off the nation's deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller. Back in September, a lawsuit was filed against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, for failing to adequately monitor and control the sale of opioids.
Lawyers in the case and a spokesman for Purdue declined to comment ahead of the planned announcement Tuesday.
A trial judge had rejected Purdue Pharma's request to delay the trial, which was scheduled for May 28. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter accused Purdue, Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd of pushing the benefits of their opioids while obscuring the risky side effects that come with them.
The deal represents Purdue's first settlement in hundreds of lawsuits facing the company, which introduced OxyContin more than 20 years ago and marketed the strong prescription painkiller aggressively to doctors. Oklahoma sued 13 opioid manufacturers in 2017, alleging they fraudulently engaged in marketing campaigns that led to thousands of overdoses and deaths. State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahomans have died from opioids than in vehicle crashes.
Sandy Coats, an attorney for Purdue Pharma, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Under the terms of the settlement, Purdue will contribute $102.5 million to establish the new addiction center, and members of the Sackler family, who own the company, will pay another $75 million in personal funds over five years, people familiar with the agreement said.
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Almost 400,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a record 47,600 in 2017.
Purdue's recent acknowledgment that it is considering bankruptcy as an option could influence strategy in those lawsuits; Oklahoma's settlement ensures it will receive at least some compensation for its claims.
The Sackler family, who made billions from founding and running Purdue, has also come under increased scrutiny as the company's legal issues mount.
Thirty-six states have brought cases against Purdue and other opioid drugmakers. "Hopefully, this is the first of many".
The 1,600 federal lawsuits were consolidated before a federal judge in OH, who has pushed for a settlement ahead of a trial in October. But in the past few weeks, the Tate museums in London and the Guggenheim Museum in NY have cut ties with the family, and other institutions have come under pressure to turn down donations or remove the Sackler name. It has made tens of billions of dollars from the drug in but has been hit with close to 2,000 lawsuits from state and local governments trying to hold the company responsible for the scourge of addiction. Oklahoma was the first state set for trial, and court observers have been watching the case closely for precedent.