OxyCon­tin maker, Ok­la­homa set­tle law­suit

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAN BOY­LAN

Pur­due Pharma and its bil­lion­aire own­ers, the Sack­ler fam­ily, reached a $270 mil­lion set­tle­ment with Ok­la­homa in its law­suit over the drug­maker’s pro­duc­tion and mar­ket­ing of the OxyCon­tin painkiller, which the state blamed for driv­ing Amer­ica’s deadly opi­oid cri­sis.

Ok­la­homa At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mike Hunter had sought $20 bil­lion in dam­ages from Pur­due Pharma and other drug man­u­fac­tur­ers, which still face 35 law­suits brought by other states and al­most 2,000 law­suits by county and city gov­ern­ments and other en­ti­ties.

“The ad­dic­tion cri­sis fac­ing our state and na­tion is a clear and present danger, but we’re do­ing some­thing about it to­day,” said Mr. Hunter, who filed the law­suit against Pur­due two years ago.

The $270 mil­lion set­tle­ment will fund ad­dic­tion re­search and treat­ment.

Health care pol­icy ex­perts said the Pur­due/Sack­ler fam­ily set­tle­ment is a vic­tory for lo­cal gov­ern­ments in their le­gal bat­tle with Big Pharma over who should pay for the stag­ger­ing health care costs as­so­ci­ated with the opi­oid epi­demic, which kills roughly 130 Amer­i­cans a day, ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Ok­la­homa al­leged that Con­necti­cut­based Pur­due and other com­pa­nies named in the law­suit, in­clud­ing John­son & John­son and Teva Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal, ag­gres­sively mar­keted OxyCon­tin while “falsely down­play­ing the risk of opi­oid ad­dic­tion” and over­selling the drug’s ben­e­fits.

The Sack­lers are worth an es­ti­mated $13 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Forbes mag­a­zine, and were once bene­fac­tors to some of the world’s largest mu­se­ums, in­clud­ing the Tate in Lon­don and the Solomon R. Guggen­heim Mu­seum in New York. Their role in the opi­oid cri­sis, how­ever, has brought them un­der in­creas­ing fire and led to mu­se­ums to re­ject the fam­ily’s do­na­tions.

While they were not named as de­fen­dants in the Ok­la­homa law­suit, the Sack­lers re­peat­edly have de­nied the al­le­ga­tions.

“The re­cent at­tacks on our fam­ily are not ac­cu­rate and mis­di­rect at­ten­tion away from cru­cial is­sues such as the ter­ri­fy­ing rise in il­licit fen­tanyl over­doses,” the Sack­lers said in a state­ment.

Pur­due Pharma said the Ok­la­homa set­tle­ment “re­solved all of the state’s claims” against the drug com­pany, adding that it had hired re­struc­tur­ing ex­perts and was mulling whether to file for bank­ruptcy.

The agree­ment out­lined plans by the com­pany to con­trib­ute nearly $200 mil­lion to cre­ate the Na­tional Cen­ter for Ad­dic­tion Stud­ies and Treat­ment at Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity in Tulsa, fund county and city ef­forts to fight the cri­sis in the state, and cover the costs and fees re­lated to the law­suit.

Pur­due added that the Sack­lers will con­trib­ute $75 mil­lion to­ward the con­struc­tion of cen­ter for ad­dic­tion stud­ies.

Fig­ures for the over­all health care, in­car­cer­a­tion and law en­force­ment costs re­lated to the opi­oid epi­demic are in­com­plete. Ok­la­homa has es­ti­mated it has cost the state nearly $9 bil­lion, while Mas­sachusetts of­fi­cials have es­ti­mated $15.2 bil­lion when lost pro­duc­tiv­ity is fac­tored in.

Court doc­u­ments filed in Mas­sachusetts al­leged that be­tween 2008 and 2016 the Sack­lers made more than $4 bil­lion from opi­oid sales.

In Cleve­land, a fed­eral judge is con­sid­er­ing a case that has con­sol­i­dated more than 1,400 law­suits against Pur­due and other phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal firms and dis­trib­u­tors that could re­sult in a mas­sive set­tle­ment with state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pur­due Pharma, mak­ers of OxyCon­tin, said the Ok­la­homa set­tle­ment over the mar­ket­ing of the painkiller “re­solved all of the state’s claims.”

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