OxyContin Maker Purdue Reaches $270 Million Settlement

Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, will pay $270 million to settle claims by the Oklahoma attorney general that the company helped fuel America's opioid crisis, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Litigation will continue against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA, Inc., Johnson & Johnson and eight other opioid manufacturers named in the Cleveland County lawsuit, officials said.

Alex Gerszewski, a spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed Tuesday morning that the settlement with Purdue would be announced later in the day in Tulsa, but he declined further comment about the settlement. The trial scheduled to begin May 28.

The lawsuit claimed that in order to persuade doctors to prescribe their painkillers, Purdue, and other companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical, allegedly chose to "falsely downplay the risk of opioid addiction" and "overstate" the benefits of their drugs to treat a wide range of conditions.

The company has made billions of dollars from OxyContin but has been hit with over 1,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments trying to hold them responsible for the scourge of addiction.

Oklahoma contends that Purdue, Johnson & Johnson and Teva bear some responsibility for thousands of opioid deaths across the state, in addition to the health care, law enforcement and treatment costs of the state's addiction crisis.

Sandy Coats, an attorney for Purdue Pharma, did not return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit accused Purdue Pharma and some members of the Sackler family of contributing to the opioid crisis.

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.

Three Sackler brothers - Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond - acquired a company in 1952 that later became today's version of Purdue Pharma.

Earlier this month, Purdue Pharma officials acknowledged that they are considering bankruptcy because of the crush of lawsuits.

Lawyers for plaintiffs pursuing similar cases nationally against Purdue and other opioid manufacturers welcomed Tuesday's settlement as a breakthrough that could help secure other deals.

As the accusations have mounted, the Sackler family that controls Purdue Pharma has faced personal lawsuits and growing public pressure.

The deal comes two months before Oklahoma's lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other drug companies was set to become the first one in the barrage of litigation to go to trial.

The Sacklers are major donors to cultural institutions, and the family name is emblazoned on the walls at numerous world's great museums and universities. A MA court filing made public earlier this year found that family members were paid at least $4bn from 2007 until last year. "Hopefully, this is the first of many".

  • Aubrey Nash