OxyContin Manufacturer Settles Lawsuit with Oklahoma

By: - March 26, 2019 12:00 am

Family members who lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses protest in August 2018 at the Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Purdue Pharma has agreed to pay Oklahoma close to million to settle a landmark opioid lawsuit. Jessica Hill/The Associated Press

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, has agreed to pay Oklahoma close to million to settle a landmark opioid lawsuit. The company’s owners, the Sackler family, agreed to pay an additional million.

The settlement absolves Purdue of all claims in the Oklahoma case. But the state intends to pursue the lawsuit against all other defendants, including two other opioid makers — Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, an Israel-based opioid maker. The case is scheduled to be heard in the Cleveland County Courthouse in Norman, Oklahoma, May 28.

The Oklahoma trial — which likely will be televised — would precede a federal opioid lawsuit slated for trial in Ohio this fall, in which Purdue and other drugmakers face claims from more than 1,600 cities, counties, states and Native American tribes, and which includes a brief from the U.S. Justice Department.

As in the Oklahoma case, the federal opioid case — to be heard in October in the U.S. Northern District of Ohio — seeks to hold drug companies responsible for the worst drug overdose epidemic in the nation’s history.  

From 1999 to 2017, nearly 400,000 people died from overdoses involving a prescription opioid or heroin and other illicit opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 218,000 of those deaths were directly related to prescription opioids. And the opioid addiction and overdose epidemic of the last decade has cost the nation an estimated billion a year.

In Purdue’s settlement with Oklahoma, .5 million will fund a new addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, which the Sackler family’s portion of the settlement also will fund.

An additional .5 million will go toward Oklahoma cities, counties and tribes for the damage caused by the opioid epidemic, along with million to reimburse the state for its litigation costs.

In addition to the financial settlement, Purdue agreed not to promote opioids in Oklahoma, including employing or contracting with sales representatives to health care providers in the state.

“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 Mike Hunter said.

The million settlement could set the bar for settlements in the federal case. It is substantially larger than the company’s earlier settlements of million in a 2004 West Virginia lawsuit, and million in a 2015 Kentucky lawsuit.

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Christine Vestal

Christine Vestal covers mental health and drug addiction for Stateline. Previously, she covered health care for McGraw-Hill and the Financial Times.