The Case
The multiple lawsuits against arguably the biggest contributors to the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma and the company’s founders the Sackler family, claim that both entities participated in massive false advertising. (Other companies targeted in the lawsuit include companies Johnson & Johnson, Teva. )Purdue should have known  that their products weren’t safe or effective, yet they advertised their drugs were both. With this knowledge, company executives pushed addictive and ineffective drugs to the masses and therefore caused the current crisis the US finds itself in today.

This behavior by Purdue is not new, in 2007, Purdue and three of its top executives paid more than $630 million in federal fines for misleading marketing, and three executives were criminally convicted, each sentenced to three years of probation and 400 hours of community service. Nevertheless, it is being argued Purdue has continued their false advertising and this new case is requesting more fu8nds from the pharmaceutical giant for those harmfully affected by its products.

Purdue Pharma has negotiated a new billion-dollar settlement with the state of Oklahoma  to prevent it from going going to court in a large federal case next month. This conglomerate lawsuit is comprised of thousands of cities, states and communities who have been negatively impacted by the opioid crisis and are seeking to hold Purdue accountable. The tentative deal would relaunch the Purdue company under non-Sackler ownership, where the family entirely removes themselves. The newly formed company will be managed by a group of trustees and while the company will still exist, all Oxycontin profits will be used towards the settlement.

Though Purdue Pharma’s tentative settlement would bring some relief to communities, a growing number of state attorneys general are lining up against the deal. They want the Sackler family to pay far more out of their personal fortune, roughly $13 billion.

{UPDATE} Sep 16

On September 16th, Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This filling also includes a restructuring of the company into a for-profit “public benefit trust”. This trust would include more than $4 billion in treatment drugs to help members of the affected communities treat their addiction by weaning them off of opiates and reaching a life after opiates. The trust is intended to last for ten years. The anticipated bankruptcy filing, which could be worth up to $12 billion over time, occurred to avoid the onslaught of court cases that was on the horizon for Purdue. The sum of the $12 billion bankruptcy filing comes from the settlements paid by Purdue and the Sackler family to the communities and individuals filing suit, the larger the payout, the more money thousands of communities get to repair.

Even with this bankruptcy filing, Purdue may not be off the hook, there are still current trials pending, in addition to the possibility that proposed settlements can be rejected. Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain (NY) will have discretion over the case, specifically on whether or not the multiple states that do not agree with the settlement can continue with their lawsuits. Purdue announced that the bankruptcy filing is intended to “facilitate an orderly and equitable resolution of all claims against Purdue, while preserving the value of Purdue’s assets for the benefit of those impacted by the opioid crisis”.

Opponents of the filing and deal point to the findings by experts that the pay out would not reach the goal of $13 billion and that the company avoids true accountability by avoiding liability charges by a judge or jury. New York Attorney General Letitia James said the settlement shows the Sacklers’ “attempting to evade responsibility and lowball millions of victims of the opioids crisis.” There have been over 700,000 drug overdose deaths in the US since 1999. Officials are fighting for what they believe pays for those deaths and restores their communities to the healthy state before Purdue Pharma wreaked havoc. At this time, the fate of the company and the crisis-stricken communities, are still developing.

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Photo by unsplash-logoDan Meyers

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