Purdue Pharma LLP, the makers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, are reportedly in settlement negotiations with a number of attorneys general from states nationwide, seeking to resolve lawsuits filed over the drug maker’s role in the nationwide opioid crisis.
Bloomberg News indicates that officials at Purdue have acknowledged the negotiations in a recent letter, and the report notes that the states are seeking a “big tobacco-style multibillion dollar payout” to address the rising costs states are incurring to combat opioid addiction and overdoses.
The report comes as the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation weighs oral arguments it heard on November 30, over whether to consolidate and centralize dozens of opioid epidemic lawsuits filed by municipalities nationwide before one judge for coordinated pretrial proceedings.
Each of the opioid lawsuits raise similar allegations, indicating that negligence, false advertising and aggressive marketing tactics led to nationwide addiction problems that are now costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars in treatment and law enforcement efforts.
Most of the cases have been filed by local governmental entities against the leading manufacturers of the prescription painkillers, including Purdue, Teva/Cephalon, Janssen, Endo, Actavis, and Mallinckrodt, as well as the distributors McKesson Corporation, AmerisourceBergen Corporation, and Cardinal Health, Inc.
The report by Bloomberg indicates that Purdue officials are seeking a global opioid settlement that would include numerous other drugmakers. The negotiations were disclosed in a recent letter from Purdue’s general counsel, Maria Barton, to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, on November 28.
According to the contents of the letter, DeWine, who’s state has been one of the hardest hit by opioid overdoses and deaths, has pulled out of a probe by 41 other attorneys general, saying that he wanted to preserve his state’s legal claims during the probe and the negotiations.
In the United States, evidence now suggests that drug overdoses kill more people than gun homicides and car crashes combined. In fact, between 1999 and 2015, more than 560,000 people died from drug overdoses. Even as abuse has seemingly decreased, opioid overdose deaths have increased.
In 2015, two-thirds of drug overdoses were linked to opioids, including Percocet, OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl, which on its own is largely driving the number of opioid deaths.
The epidemic is only worsening. Americans consume more opioids than any other country in the world. The amount of opioids prescribed in the U.S. last year was enough for every American to be medicated 24 hours a day for three weeks consecutively.
Opioid overdoses kill more than 90 Americans every day, experts say, and the economic burden of opioid misuse costs the country $78.5 billion per year.