In the wake of thousands of lawsuits, OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy on Sunday.
2600 entities, many of them local and state governments, have filed for the damages to both individuals and communities. The bankruptcy is part of a settlement deal to enable the company to consolidate and expedite damages, says Purdue chairman Steve Miller:
“This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis. We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible.”
However, not all plaintiffs seem as hopeful about the deal. Some refused to sign into the deal, and plan to continue their cases individually. Miller says that this process “would rapidly diminish all the resources of the company and would be lose-lose-lose all the way around.” Presumably, the three losers here are victims, the company, and the communities that might be improved by a timely settlement schedule.
The settlement also does not require Purdue Pharma to admit any wrongdoing.
Other parties seek damages directly from the Sackler family, who bought Purdue Pharma in 1952. The company released OxyContin in 1996. From 1999 to 2017, over 400,000 people died from opioid related causes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forbes estimated the family’s fortune contains at least $13 billion, and reports continue to surface of undisclosed off-shore holdings.
The lawsuits blame Purdue Pharma for aggressively marketing OxyContin to physicians, using visiting sales representatives, meet ups, and conferences.
Richard Sackler claimed in 1999 “the launch of OxyContin Tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white.”
Purdue Pharma stated in 2019 that it could most easily pay out the damages sought if it were allowed to continue to sell OxyContin.