After years of investigations and lawsuits concerning the marketing of opioid OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, the company largely controlled by the Sackler family, agreed to a $270 million out-of-court settlement with the state of Oklahoma.
The settlement may perhaps be the beginning of the legal ramifications the company and family that has pushed a highly addictive prescription painkiller for roughly 20 years. Other lawsuits filed by Massachusetts and New York attorney generals outlined a clear plan that the Sackler family developed in 2014 to continue increasing profits by selling treatments for the opioid addiction they had helped generate. The family called their new plan Project Tango.
Purdue Pharma is no stranger to lawsuits surrounding OxyContin and its advertising efforts. In 2007, the company pled guilty to criminal charges in a federal court, admitting they misled doctors, patients, and regulators about just how addictive the drug could be, and agreed to a $600 million fine. Three Purdue Pharma executives also pled guilty in the misbranding and agreed to pay a total fine of $34.5 million. However, the 26 March 2019 settlement was notable in that Oklahoma was also able to ban the company until 2026 from promoting opioids in the state, or from visiting physicians to promote its products. Along with litigation costs to the state's cities and towns, the company will also donate $102.5 million to create a new Oklahoma State University foundation for addiction research and treatment. The Sackler family will pay an extra $75 million over five years from a personal fund.
According to the Washington Post, the settlement gave the company time before dealing with its next scheduled court appearance in Ohio federal court in October, which features several lawsuits amalgamated into a single but much larger case. The settlement also allowed the company to avoid a televised jury trial.
OxyContin is just one component of what has become a deepening national addiction crisis, and the company is just one of dozens embroiled in more than 1,600 lawsuits throughout the U.S.