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Purdue Pharma Deal Goes To Supreme Court

The opioid crisis is now at the forefront of the Supreme Court’s attention, and justices heard arguments earlier this month regarding a challenge to the bankruptcy deal intended to compensate victims of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin.

In this case, Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, agreed to pay billions of dollars to those harmed by the opioid epidemic under a deal approved by a lower court.

The deal shields members of the Sackler family, who owned and ran the company, from personal liability. The Sacklers were known for their aggressive promotion and deceptive marketing of OxyContin.

Oxycontin’s Devastating Effects

OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller, played a significant role in fueling the addiction crisis that is still raging in the United States.

Introduced in 1996 by Purdue Pharma, OxyContin contained oxycodone, an opioid that provided relief for patients experiencing severe pain. However, the drug’s extended-release formula, designed to provide long-lasting pain relief, made it susceptible to abuse.

In the early 2000s, reports began to surface about the widespread misuse of OxyContin, as individuals found ways to bypass its time-release mechanism, leading to a rapid release of the drug and a powerful euphoric effect.

The over-prescription of opioids by doctors and the aggressive marketing strategies employed by Purdue Pharma contributed to the widespread availability of these drugs, ultimately contributing to the devastating addiction crisis that continues to impact communities across the nation.

Purdue Pharma’s Legal History

Purdue Pharma had already faced legal repercussions, pleading guilty to three criminal charges in 2020 and agreeing to pay $8 billion in criminal and civil fines.

A significant portion of this amount was intended for state and local governments handling the fallout of the opioid crisis. Money could go to treatment, research, prevention and addiction medicine. The current case revolves around the bankruptcy deal, which releases the Sacklers from personal liability despite their central role in Purdue Pharma’s actions.

The Sacklers, including three original brothers who developed OxyContin and six family members who sat on the company’s board, were to contribute $4 billion under the initial bankruptcy deal. However, objections from several states and the District of Columbia led the Sacklers to increase their contribution to $6 billion. The dissenting states withdrew their opposition, and the majority of state, local, and tribal governments and groups of individuals voted to approve the settlement.

Critics of the agreement argue that the release from liability, including the Sacklers’ immunity from testifying about their actions in future litigation, is problematic.

The $6 billion payment over eight years is a strategy to secure a favorable deal while retaining a significant portion of their money and assets.

Purdue Pharma and Other Opioid Lawsuit Settlements

The opioid epidemic has led to a series of lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies and other entities involved in the production and distribution of opioid painkillers.

These lawsuits aim to hold responsible parties accountable for their role in the widespread misuse and addiction to opioids, which have had devastating effects on communities across the United States.

Opioids, including prescription pain medications like OxyContin and illicit drugs like heroin, have been associated with a significant increase in overdose deaths and other adverse health outcomes.

One notable legal resolution occurred on October 21, 2019, when pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma settled with various states and local governments.

Other lawsuits against different opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacy chains have continued, highlighting the complexity of addressing the multifaceted challenges posed by the opioid epidemic in the legal arena. These legal actions seek to address the societal impact of the opioid crisis and provide resources for treatment, prevention, and support for affected communities.

The money from these lawsuits has been able to supply states in the throes of addiction, helping them create more treatment beds, employ harm reduction and prevention through education.