Drug Maker Tentatively Settles Opioid Case

Drug maker tentatively settles the opioid case. The New York Times reports that Purdue Pharma has reached a possible settlement over Oxycontin, its well-known opioid drug. The tentative agreement, which includes the company’s owners, the Sackler family, could resolve thousands of opioid lawsuits across the country.

State and city governments are pursuing legal action against the pharmaceutical industry for its role in the ongoing opioid epidemic. Overdoses have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, and public healthcare systems have been overwhelmed.

Sources familiar with the negotiations say that the likely settlement terms will include:

  • Purdue declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy
  • Dissolving Purdue and forming a new company to sell Oxycontin along with other medicines
  • Plaintiffs to receive profits from the new company
  • Drugs provided for overdose reversal and addiction treatment
  • The Sackler family to pay $3 billion in damages

One of the most controversial terms is the use of future Oxycontin profits to reimburse plaintiffs. Skeptics of the deal argue that this would perpetuate the ongoing opioid crisis. Also, Purdue would not be required to admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

Whether the deal will be approved remains to be seen. Purdue’s board still needs to agree to the deal, as does a bankruptcy court judge. Several states have already objected to the deal, making court approval uncertain. Some argue that the costs of treating addiction and overdoses will be much more substantial than anticipated by this proposal.

Those in favor of the proposed settlement point out that trials and appeals could take years. If the result of a trial and appeal is worse, there would be no going back to this tentative deal. Reaching a settlement now, even an imperfect one, may be the best possible outcome.

This deal won’t be the end of opioid litigation. A major federal case in Ohio is set to begin this fall against several opioid makers. Lawsuits are likely to continue against Purdue and other pharmaceutical defendants. Victims affected by opioids, and their families, should speak with an experienced drug injury attorney to understand their rights. It is also important to ask an attorney about what effect a potential settlement could have on their claims.

Opioids are highly addictive painkillers. They include, besides Oxycontin, such drugs as hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and methadone, plus illegal drugs like heroin. Opioids cause mild side effects, but also more serious ones, including:

  • Addiction and withdrawal
  • Respiratory problems
  • Heart problems
  • Overdose and death

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has declared a public health emergency over the opioid crisis. Approximately 47,000 Americans died from legal and illegal opioid overdoses in 2017. Purdue and other drug companies have been blamed for causing and perpetuating the problem. Government plaintiffs have contended that their health systems have been pushed to the breaking point as a result.

Lawsuits have alleged the following:

  • Intense marketing of opioids with little regard for public safety
  • Failure to warn doctors and patients about the side effects and addictive nature of opioids
  • Bribing doctors to unnecessarily prescribe opioids, resulting in numerous victims of the drugs
  • Ignoring the opioid black market for which they were responsible

As the full extent of the opioid epidemic becomes known, public health costs could climb into the billions. Plaintiffs want money for programs to combat the crisis, such as addiction and overdose treatment, drug courts, and rehabilitation programs. There are also calls for companies such as Purdue to be forced out of the pharmaceutical business.

A Drug Injury Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one have been victimized by the opioid crisis, Rueb Stoller Daniel wants to hear from you. Drug companies who are irresponsible with their products need to be held accountable. We can help. Give us a call today to learn more about your legal rights.