Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, has agreed to settle a lawsuit with Oklahoma over the drugmaker’s part in opioid deaths in the state.
In the lawsuit, Oklahoma claimed that Purdue, Johnson & Johnson and Teva are at least partly responsible for the thousands of opioid deaths across the state. In the settlement, Purdue has agreed to pay $102.5 million to build a new addiction treatment center, $20 million for treatment drugs, $12 million to cities and towns and $60 million to private attorneys. Members of the Sackler family, who own the pharmaceutical company, will pay an additional $75 million in personal funds over five years.
Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed the lawsuit against the three drug companies in 2017 and they have been taking deposition for almost two years now. Oklahoma judge Thad H. Balkman set a trial date for May 28 and denied drug company requests to postpone the trial.
“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we’re doing something about it today,” Hunter said.
Authorities claimed that Purdue used misleading marketing tactics and many representatives to visit doctors regularly and sell them narcotics. They told the doctors that these drugs were rarely addictive, but many of the patients got addicted to them.
Purdue Pharma faces more than 1,000 other lawsuits in connection to the opioid crisis. Oklahoma has been the first plaintiff to come to a settlement with the drug company.
Paul Hanley, who is representing other plaintiffs in the opioid litigation, is happy about the settlement.
“That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem,” he said. “Hopefully, this is the first of many.”
However, not everyone is happy with the settlement. Some activists wanted to go to court to hold Purdue Pharma fully accountable in public.
“This decision is a kick in the gut to our community,” said Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from opioid addiction. “We deserve to have our day in court with Purdue. The parents, the families, the survivors deserve at least that. And Oklahoma stripped that from us today.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drugs like Oxycontin were linked to 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017. In Oklahoma, about 400 deaths were related to opioid use that year.