March 26, 2019
On March 26, 2019, the State of Oklahoma announced that one of the defendants in litigation against several manufacturers of opioid-based painkillers, Purdue Pharma, had agreed to pay $270 million to settle the claims brought against it by the State of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. The State alleged Purdue aggressively marketed its opioid painkiller, OxyContin, thereby fueling an opioid crisis that left thousands dead in the State of Oklahoma.
The settlement came on the heels of Purdue’s lost attempt to delay the upcoming May 28th trial for 100 days—a ruling made by Cleveland County District Court Judge Thad Balkman and affirmed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Under the terms of the settlement, Purdue will immediately contribute $102.5 million to establish a world class foundation for addiction treatment and research at Oklahoma State University, with additional payments of $15 million each year for the next five years beginning in 2020. The company will also provide $20 million of addiction treatment and opioid rescue medications to the center over the same five-year time frame. And, $12.5 million from the settlement will be used directly to help cities and counties struggling with the opioid crisis. The Sackler family, who founded and own Purdue Pharma, will also contribute $75 million over the next five years to the treatment and research center.
Lead NP attorney, Brad Beckworth, said the model here is that “the money needs to go to fixing the problem.” “This is a major step in trying to turn this ship,” he said. “The only way you can fix the problem is treat addiction, destigmatize addiction and educate doctors and the public.”
He believes that the settlement will set a precedent. “I hope other states will use this as a model to deal with the problem in their respective communities.”
“It is a new day in Oklahoma, and for the nation, in our battle against addiction and the opioid epidemic,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said.
The settlement was only with Purdue Pharma, and the other defendants are still scheduled to go to trial. “We’re ready to go to trial on May 28,” Hunter said. The trial will be the first in the nation that could determine pharmaceutical companies’ role in the nation’s opioid crisis and whether Big Pharma should pay for it.