In 2007, Merck & Co. inked what is the largest settlement by a Big Pharma company when it agreed to pay $4.85 billion to resolve lawsuits alleging its arthritis drug Vioxx caused heart attacks and strokes. But if the recently announced deal struck by Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma to settle thousands of claims waged by local governments, tribes and states accusing the company of creating a national opioid epidemic is approved by a federal judge in Ohio, it would take the top spot at around $10 billion to $12 billion.
Purdue’s settlement is pending approval, but under the terms of the agreement, Purdue would immediately file Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring to create a public beneficiary trust that would turn over profits to plaintiffs. The company would also provide free access to its overdose antidotes and addiction treatments currently under development. The billionaire family that owns the company, the Sackler family, would also pay an additional $3 billion out of their own pockets over the next seven years.
Since Merck settled in 2007, the company has continued to pay out separate deals related to Vioxx side effects, including $950 million in 2011, $220 million in 2012, and $830 million in 2017, bringing its total Vioxx settlement payments to $6.85 billion. It’s still about half of what Purdue is expected to pay.
Beasley Allen’s Andy Birchfield and his team of lawyers – Benjamin Locklar, P. Leigh O’Dell, and W. Roger Smith III – played an integral role in the development of the Vioxx Settlement Program and in Merck agreeing to settle these cases.
Beasley Allen attorneys are also representing multiple local governments in Alabama against both manufacturers and distributors of opioids, including Purdue Pharma, to hold them responsible for the increased costs related to the opioid crisis. Attorneys are also handling opioid injury claims involving brand-name prescription and opioid usage that led to overdose death, hospitalization due to overdose or symptoms of overdose, and in-patient rehab for opioid addiction.