This week may have marked a major victory for those who have been impacted by the country’s opioid crisis. Per several major news sites, pharmaceutical behemoth Purdue Pharma has now agreed to settle their lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general for a whopping $270 million. Purdue, as we all know, is the primary manufacturer of OxyContin, which they’re accused of aggressively marketing to the detriment of millions of addicted Americans.
According to Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, this should be classified as a big win.
“It is a new day in Oklahoma, and for the nation, in our battle against addiction and the opioid epidemic,” he told CNN. “This is a major step in trying to turn this ship. The only way you can fix the problem is to treat addiction, destigmatize addiction and educate doctors and the public.”
And indeed, it does sound like a good chunk of Purdue’s money is going to be put to very good use. Per Hunter, $102.5 million of the settlement will be used to establish a national addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University. There will also be an additional $15 million set aside for services each year until 2025. And if that weren’t enough, $20 more million will be funded by Purdue to provide for opioid rescue medications such as Narcan.
Though the drugmakers have continued to deny any wrongdoing and stand firm that their marketing tactics were in line, they released an encouraging statement about the outcome.
After the announcement was made, Dr. Craig Landau, president and CEO of Purdue Pharma said, “Purdue is very pleased to have reached an agreement with Oklahoma that will help those who are battling addiction now and in the future.”
And while that does sound very positive, the lawsuit story is far from over. Oklahoma is also going after Johnson & Johnson, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Allergan and many others for their alleged roles in the crisis. And Purdue faces similar legal action in 35 other states (though Oklahoma was set to be the first to go to trial).
The big takeaway, in our opinion, is the precedent an action like this sets. There is no denying that “money talks” and we’re certain that other big companies will take this as a powerful message. Once these lawsuits start hitting them in the pocketbooks, expect swift action when it comes to the marketing and promotion of painkillers.
We’ll make sure to continue to cover this important story as updates develop.