Oklahoma attorney general sets announcement on opioid suit

Kenny Tucker
March 27, 2019

Oklahoma's attorney general announced a settlement with one drug company in the state's lawsuit against the nation's leading manufacturers of opioid pain medications.

The company has made billions of dollars from OxyContin but has been hit with over 1,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments trying to hold them responsible for the scourge of addiction.

Prescription opioids like OxyContin were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S.in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger", Hunter said.

The companies deny wrongdoing. Experts say those tactics contributed to overuse and abuse.

Earlier this month, Purdue Pharma officials acknowledged that they are considering bankruptcy because of the crush of lawsuits.

"It is going to save countless lives, and it's going to keep families together", Hunter said at a news conference.

"We have long alleged that Purdue Pharma ignited today's epidemic by starting the disturbing practice of deceptive opioid marketing, convincing both doctors and the American public to trust that these drugs were safe and virtually non-addictive", said plaintiffs' attorneys Paul J. Hanly Jr., Paul T. Farrell Jr. and Joe Rice, in a statement. More than 1,600 lawsuits were consolidated before a federal judge in OH with an expected October trial date if the parties do not settle beforehand, reported Reuters.

Purdue's settlement with Oklahoma relieves the immediate pressure on the drugmaker for a bankruptcy filing, said Alexandra Lahav, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.

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Though Purdue has accepted this relatively minimal defeat, suits against Johnson & Johnson and Teva will continue.

The announcement comes as the state of Oklahoma announced Tuesday that it has settled a closely watched lawsuit with Purdue Pharma two months before the case was set to go to trial.

Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin more than 20 years ago and marketed it aggressively to doctors.

Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties. The state had been seeking over $20 billion in damages.

Then, beginning January 1, 2020, the center will start receiving $15 million a year for five years, for a total of $75 million in additional payments.

Another $12.5 million will be made available to Oklahoma localities to help address the opioid epidemic in their communities, and another $60 million will go toward costs and legal fees stemming from the lawsuit.

The other companies named in the lawsuit are not part of the settlement.

Oklahoma sued 13 opioid manufacturers in 2017, alleging they fraudulently engaged in marketing campaigns that led to thousands of overdose addictions and deaths.

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