Oklahoma Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma Settles For $270 Million

By Lindsey Weedston 03/28/19

The bulk of the settlement will go to Oklahoma State University to fund an addiction treatment center and addiction treatment medicine.

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Oklahoma lawyers agreeing to a settlement

The first lawsuit of around 2,000 filed against Purdue Pharma and other drug manufacturers/distributors has settled for $270 million, Reuters reports. The money which will go toward mitigating the opioid crisis.

The lawsuit was filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and would have gone to court in May.

It accused pharmaceutical companies Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin), Johnson & Johnson, and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries of deceptive marketing that fueled the national opioid epidemic.

The $270 million settlement is with Purdue Pharma only, so Johnson & Johnson and Teva are still expected in court on May 28 of this year.

According to Reuters, the state of Oklahoma was seeking a total of $20 billion in damages caused by opioid addiction and overdose. The bulk of the $270 million from the settlement will be granted to Oklahoma State University to fund an addiction treatment center and addiction-fighting medications.

$12.5 million will be given to local governments to help them recover from the opioid epidemic, and $60 million will be paid in legal fees. Members of the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma will pay an additional $75 million to the university.

This settlement has been encouraging news for critics of drug companies who believe this is a sign of more settlements to come. Purdue Pharma had been considering bankruptcy as a way to halt the roughly 2,000 lawsuits against it.

However, it appears that Purdue may instead be opting for a far-reaching settlement across the many similar lawsuits. This is how the legal battles against the tobacco industry ended in 1998—with a $246 billion settlement, Reuters noted.

University of Connecticut School of Law Professor Alexandra Lahav believes that the Purdue settlement “may be the start of the dominoes falling” for the company.

According to the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the opioid epidemic has caused over $500 billion in economic damages across the U.S. in the year 2015 alone.

That number likely rose in 2016, when the total number of deaths from opioid-related overdoses jumped from 33,091 to over 42,000.

Between deaths, the costs of treating overdose cases and addiction, missed work by those affected, and crime related to illicit opioids, the crisis has been economically devastating to communities across the nation.

Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family have continued to deny its alleged role in fueling the opioid epidemic, stressing that prescription opioids come with FDA warnings about addiction and overdose. This argument, however, has proved to be an ineffective deterrent. 

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Lindsey Weedston is a Seattle area writer focused on mental health and addiction, politics, human rights, and various social issues. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Ravishly, ThinkProgress, Little Things, Yes! Magazine, and others. You can find her daily writings at NotSorryFeminism.com. Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindseyWeedston

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