Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, have agreed to pay $270 million to the state of Oklahoma, resolving claims over its part in the opioid abuse crisis ravaging that state, as well as many others.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter issued a press release on March 26, announcing the opioid settlement, which resolves a lawsuit filed against the drug company that was brought by the state.
Lawsuits are currently pending nationwide involving claims brought by a number of states and municipalities, which blame drug manufacturers for creating the nationwide opioid crisis, with Purdue on the frontlines as the creator of OxyContin.
The opioid crisis claims more and more lives each year, due to accidental and intentional overdoses associated with the powerful and addictive pain medications. In fact, Americans are now more likely to die from an opioid overdose than from a car crash.
A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published late last year indicated opioids accounted for nearly 70% of all drug overdose deaths.
Oklahoma and other states have accused Purdue Pharma of deceptively marketing OxyContin, Other drug makers, like Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals, face similar claims. In the press release, Hunter indicated that a trial scheduled for May 28 is still on schedule; just without Purdue’s involvement.
As part of the settlement, Purdue Pharma agrees to establish a nearly $200 million endowment for the Center for Wellness and Recovery at Oklahoma State University, which researches the treatment of pain and drug addiction. The company will also pay the state $60 million to pay for the litigation and will pay $12.5 million in funds that will go directly to cities and counties in Oklahoma to help combat the opioid crisis.
“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger,” Attorney General Hunter said in the press release. “Last year alone, out of the more than 3,000 Oklahomans admitted to the hospital for a non-fatal overdose, 80 percent involved a prescription opioid medication. Additionally, nearly 50 percent of Oklahomans who died from a drug overdose in 2018 were attributed to a pharmaceutical drug. Deploying the money from this settlement immediately allows us to decisively treat addiction illness and save lives.”
There are currently more than 1,300 opioid addiction lawsuits filed in the federal court system, each seeking damages from various manufacturers and distributors of the powerful narcotic medications over addiction and abuse problems that have plagued the nation in the recent years.
Given common questions of fact and law raised in the claims, the U.S. JPML established centralized proceedings for the opioid cases last year, consolidating the claims before U.S. District Judge Dan A. Polster in the Northern District of Ohio, for coordinated discovery and pretrial proceedings.