Purdue Pharma and the state of Oklahoma agreed to settle a lawsuit over the drugmaker’s role in the deadly opioid crisis, a milestone in the legal effort to force pharmaceutical companies to pay some costs of the epidemic. The deal will require Purdue and the Sackler family, which owns the company, to pay about $270 million, reports the Washington Post.
Most of the money will fund a new center for research, education and treatment of addiction and pain at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa.
Oklahoma is free to continue its lawsuit against two other defendants and their subsidiaries — Johnson & Johnson, the 37th-largest company in the U.S., and Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, an Israel-based manufacturer that focuses mainly on generic drugs. That case is scheduled for trial May 28.
In an email Tuesday, Bob Josephson, Purdue Pharma executive director of communication said, “We are not commenting at this time,” CNN reports.
The agreement is to be announced by the Oklahoma attorney general’s office at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
Oklahoma contends that Purdue, Johnson & Johnson and Teva bear some responsibility for thousands of opioid deaths across the state, in addition to the health care, law enforcement and treatment costs of the addiction crisis. Purdue and others face similar claims in other courts.
The first major settlement could help set the bar for compensation sought by hundreds of states, cities, counties and Native American tribes for the costs incurred in responding to the epidemic. About 1,600 of those cases are consolidated in one large case before a federal judge in Cleveland.
Cities, towns and tribes are seeking damages in what some believe is the most complex litigation in U.S. history. Thirty-six states have chosen to bring separate lawsuits in their own courts, believing they have better chances there.
Purdue’s acknowledgment that it is considering bankruptcy as an option could influence strategy in those lawsuits; Oklahoma’s settlement ensures it will receive at least some compensation.
A consultant’s report estimated that abating the opioid crisis in Oklahoma would cost more than $8.7 billion over 20 years.
The drugmakers have denied the allegations and maintained their marketing was appropriate.
Meanwhile, in reportedly growing “outrage” tying the Sackler family to the opioid epidemic, several museums have begun cutting ties with the family’s foundation, reports the New York Times.