In September 2019, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in White Plains, NY, in an effort to short-circuit outstanding lawsuits involving the painkiller OxyContin. The lawsuits focus on the company’s aggressive marketing tactics that promoted OxyContin as having a low risk of addition. Purdue is owned by a wealthy family that local and state governments have been targeting to recover the billions of dollars lost to the opioid addiction crisis. The bankruptcy settlement calls for Purdue and the family to place more than $10 billion in a trust to be controlled by the state and local governments to help them treat opioid addition.
More than 2,000 OxyContin lawsuits are pending against the company and its owners. Approximately two dozen states and U.S. territories, as well as many cities and counties, have signed on to the plan. The company is asking the courts to halt the remaining outstanding lawsuits.
Oklahoma Lawsuit Predated Bankruptcy Filing
Prior to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Purdue settled claims brought by the state of Oklahoma for $270 million. The lawsuit claimed that the company illegally marketed OxyContin, leading to the ruin of local communities.
Evidence presented in the case included the following: In 2015, Oklahoma physicians wrote over four million opioid scripts, which is more than the population of the entire state. Then in 2016, there were 444 deaths from opioid-related overdoses in the state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state targeted opioid manufacturer painkiller marketing campaigns in 2017, and the trials were broken down into groups of three. Purdue and two others, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. and Johnson & Johnson, were the first scheduled for trial.
Oklahoma was originally seeking $25 billion from Purdue, claiming that the company encouraged physicians to prescribe OxyContin for unapproved purposes; drugmakers can only market products according to regulations. The lawsuit alleged that this created billions in profits for the family. Between 2008 and 2016, they earned over $4 billion (according to a suit filed in Massachusetts).
Oklahoma’s lawsuit sought millions of dollars to combat the financial price of the opioid epidemic, including services and healthcare for addicts, orphaned children, and long-term care and counseling. The family will be paying $75 million, and Purdue is contributing $103 to set up the National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University. Purdue is also contributing $20 million in medicine, and $72 million to cover litigation costs. At the trial’s conclusion, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Ltd. agreed to pay $85 million. Johnson & Johnson refused to settle, asserting that it did nothing wrong. The court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $527 for creating a public nuisance for its role in promoting opioids.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General said that the opioid epidemic is the worst public health crisis in the country’s history, and that defendants need to be held accountable for knowingly promoting dangerous drugs. He added that the settlement is a first step towards reaching the end goal of ending the crisis.
Philadelphia Products Liability Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Represent Those Harmed by Dangerous and Defective Drugs
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