Purdue Pharma settles for £204m over its role in opioid crisis

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Purdue Pharma settles for £204m over its role in opioid crisis

The pharmaceutical giant which makes the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin was sued by the state of Oklahoma.

The maker of OxyContin painkillers has reached a $270m out of court settlement

A pharmaceutical giant has reached a $270m (£204m) settlement with the state of Oklahoma over its role in the US opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma has made billions of dollars from sales of prescription painkiller OxyContin but has been hit with nearly 2,000 lawsuits from state and local governments across the country.

The filings are trying to hold the company responsible for the scourge of opioid addiction in the US.

Purdue Pharma’s settlement has been criticised by the parent of an overdose victim as being paid with “blood money from our children”.

The company introduced OxyContin more than 20 years ago and marketed the powerful painkiller aggressively to doctors.

The US is gripped in an opioid crisis

Experts say those tactics contributed to overuse and abuse.

Nearly $200m (£151m) of the settlement will go towards establishing the National Centre for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, while local governments will get $12.5m (£9.5m).

Prescription opioids like OxyContin were a factor in a record 48,000 overdose deaths across the US in 2017, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Oklahoma has accused 12 other drugmakers of helping to fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic and a trial is set for May.

State officials have accused the pharmaceuticals of fraudulent marketing that led to thousands of overdoses and deaths.

Purdue Pharma has settled other lawsuits over the years, and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2007.

But this is the first settlement to come out of the current coast-to-coast wave of litigation that focuses mostly on the company’s more recent conduct.

The lawsuits threaten to push Purdue Pharma into bankruptcy.

The Sackler family have made more than £60m worth of donations to UK institutions since 2010

The settlement comes after the Sackler Trust, which has donated millions to science, healthcare, education and the arts, announced it was pausing donations.

The trust is run by the Sackler family, members of which control Purdue Pharma.

The family is responsible for $75m (£56.7m) of the $270m settlement, according to a person familiar with the agreement.

Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, said: “That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem.

“Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

Cheryl Juaire, whose 23-year-old son Corey died of an overdose in 2011, said she was devastated to hear about the settlement.

She had been organising a group of hundreds of mothers to go to the first day of the trial and stand outside with photos of their dead children.

Ms Juaire, from Massachusetts, said a complete airing of the facts is the only way to fully hold Purdue to account.

She said: “They can’t settle. That would be a huge disservice to the tens of thousands of families here in the United States who buried a child.

“That’s blood money from our children.”

Sandy Coats, a lawyer for Purdue Pharma, did not immediately responds to requests for comment.

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Purdue Pharma settles for £204m over its role in opioid crisis

 

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