OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP and members of the wealthy Sackler family that own the company have agreed to pay $270 million to the state of Oklahoma for deceptive marketing of its highly addictive painkiller resulting in thousands of overdose deaths and economic damages. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Oklahoma State University (OSU) leaders said nearly $200 million of the settlement will be used to establish an endowment at the OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery to address treatments for the nationwide opioid epidemic.
Purdue had sought to delay a trial in the case, which was set for May 28. Those efforts were ultimately rejected Monday by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
The lawsuit, filed in 2017 by Oklahoma AG Hunter, sought more than $20 billion in damages and also named Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. No settlement has yet been reached with J&J or Teva. The trial against those and other defendants named in the state’s lawsuit is still scheduled for May 28.
According to an official news release from the AG’s office, in addition to the establishment of the endowment:
- $12.5 million will go towards providing funds to directly abate and address the opioid epidemic’s effects in Oklahoma’s cities and counties.
- Purdue will also make a $60 million payment to offset all litigation costs up to this point.
- Purdue will not promote opioids in Oklahoma, including employing or contracting with sales representatives to health care providers in Oklahoma.
“We appreciate that Purdue Pharma and its owners chose to work constructively with us to resolve this litigation in a way that will bring to life a new and unique national center with the goal of creating breakthrough innovations in the prevention and treatment of addiction,” Attorney General Hunter stated in the release.
More than 1,600 of about 2,000 lawsuits filed against Purdue by state and local governments are consolidated in a multidistrict litigation in Ohio federal court under U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster. The first trial is scheduled for October, though Judge Polster has pushed hard for the parties to reach a settlement before then. Purdue has reportedly been considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Opioids like OxyContin, heroin and fentanyl caused a record 47,600 deaths in the United States in 2017 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma ranks second in the nation in opioid addiction. In 2017, President Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic a public health emergency.
Litigation asserts Prudue Pharma launched OxyContin in 1996 and aggressively marketed the painkiller to doctors while downplaying the risks of addiction and overdose.