Without a doubt, one of the most high-profile stories surrounding the nation’s opioid crisis has been the billion dollar lawsuit filed against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Prosecutors charged that the pharmaceutical giant had a significant role in addiction epidemic, which has led to hundreds of thousands of fatal overdoses. To many, it felt like an uphill battle to take on a corporation of that magnitude. But, in a surprise move this month, Purdue has reached a settlement and is pleading guilty to three federal charges.
Numerous news outlets broke the story, which will continue to unfold over the next several weeks. As of right now, it is being reported that Purdue Pharma is dismantling and its assets will be used to create a new company controlled by the government.
The settlement itself will amount to more than $8 billion, which will go towards opioid treatment and abatement programs. Purdue is a private company run by the Sackler family (who we’ve covered many times before). Family members who were on the board had been criticized in the past for withdrawing large amount of cash from the company and inserting it into trust funds; all in the hope of escaping large fines.
They did release a statement about the settlement, denying culpability.
“Members of the Sackler family who served on Purdue’s board of directors acted ethically and lawfully, and the upcoming release of company documents will prove that fact in detail,” a family spokesperson said following the settlement news. “This history of Purdue will also demonstrate that all financial distributions were proper.”
Nevertheless, high ranking officials from the DEA’s office and the Department of Justice feel Purdue did not put the best interest of their customers’ at heart. DEA Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott spoke to CNN about the outcome, which he believed was an important victory for the country.
“Purdue Pharma actively thwarted the United States’ efforts to ensure compliance and prevent diversion,” he told the site. “The devastating ripple effect of Purdue’s actions left lives lost and others addicted.”
One interesting note about the dismantlement of Purdue is the fact that it does not mean the end for OxyContin. The DOJ acknowledged that the painkiller does serve a legitimate purpose and should still be made available for people in need (though in a much more regulated manner). How that all happens remains to be seen as the current plan is to dissolve Purdue and create a new “public benefit company designed for the benefit of the American public.”
We’ll definitely keep you posted as this story continues to develop…