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The Opioid Crisis Update: Recent Developments Regarding Legal Actions Against Opioid Drugs’ Manufacturers

May 24 2019 | Blog
  • Lawsuits against the manufacturers of opioids are gaining momentum, as their role in the opioid abuse and overdose epidemic becomes increasingly clear. Read this article to learn how you may be affected by recent litigation developments.

     

    The opioid abuse epidemic is without a doubt one of the greatest societal challenges and national concerns the U.S. has faced in the second decade of the 21st century. As was discussed in great detail in series last year on the topic, the opioid crisis has been destroying families, crippling societies, and claiming lives on a scale and magnitude greater than any other wave of drug addiction that has swept the United States in the last 40 years. According to the latest statistics, an average of 130 Americans dies from an opioid overdose each day. In 2017, nearly 50,000 people died from prescription drug overdose – making the death toll of the epidemic in just that one year larger than that of 9/11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

    While no one needs to be convinced of how big of a problem the opioid abuse epidemic actually is, there is little agreement on how to best address this complex issue – and how to help both the affected individuals and societies at large to heal. Nevertheless, those whose lives and families have forever been changed by the destructive power of opioid addiction seem to agree on at least one thing – whom to blame for the epidemic. Thousands of lawsuits filed against the country’s biggest opioid manufacturers send this loud and clear message to the big pharma industry: Companies whose irresponsible, dishonest, and deceitful marketing strategies have contributed to the escalation of the problem, will now have to face legal and financial consequences for their actions.

    In this article, you will find more information about the most recent legal developments related to legal steps states and individuals in order to bring opioid drug manufacturers to accountability.

    $270 Million Settlement and Other State-Sponsored Lawsuits Against Big Pharma in Oklahoma

    In a recent landmark case, Purdue – the manufacturer of Oxycontin, one of the most common and addictive opioids on the market – has agreed to pay a staggering $270m to settle a lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma alleging that the company’s “deceptive and misleading prescription opioid marketing campaign has caused a devastating public health crisis” in the state and put “an immense financial burden” on its communities and citizens.

    As a part of the settlement, Purdue agreed to pay $102.5m to fund the creation of a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University. The center’s activities will focus on research, education, and treatment of addiction and pain. In addition to the amount agreed upon in the settlement, the center will receive an additional $75m from the Sackler family who owns the company. The multi-billion-dollar dynasty will transfer these funds to the center over the course of a five year period.

    In addition to the recent settlement with Purdue, Oklahoma is seeking even greater compensation verdicts for Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceutical – two other opioid drugs manufacturers. The state is allegedly aiming to receive a total of $20 billion in damages from the two companies. Johnson & Johnson and Teva sought to delay a trial but the motion was overturned by the Oklahoma Supreme Court and is now scheduled to start on May 28 this year.

     

    Members of Sackler Family Named as Defendants in a Massachusetts Lawsuit

    In response to the settlement announcement, the Sacklers – who are known for their charitable work, philanthropy, and sponsorship of art – said that the family has “profound compassion for those affected by addiction”. However, a recent lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey paints a markedly different image of at least some of the members of the Sackler family.

    The lawsuit – which alleges that “Purdue Pharma created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit” – names 17 individuals as defendants along with the OxyContin manufacturer. Eight members of the Sackler family who served on the company’s board of directors or as executives are among those named in the lawsuit.

    According to the allegations made by the attorney general’s office, Purdue supposedly paid more than $4 billion to the members of the Sackler family between 2008 and 2016. In addition, the lawsuit claims that Sacklers’ influence and suggestions were instrumental in the implementation of the manufacturer’s strategy to boost sales by increasing the company’s sales representatives’ visits to doctors.

    Perhaps the most striking allegations made public by the lawsuit, however, concern Richard Sackler – the former Purdue Pharma CEO – and Kathe Sackler, a board member. As reported by various news outlets including the BBC and NPR, Richard Sackler’s strategy to distance Purdue from the opioid controversy was supposedly to blame the addicted individuals, labeling them as “the culprits” and “reckless criminals”. Kathe Sackler, on the other hand, supposedly pushed a secret project to expand Purdue’s drug portfolio by including Suboxone – a drug used to treat opioid addiction. That way, the company could make a further profit off the epidemic.

    With allegations as serious as those mentioned above, there is little doubt that the recent lawsuits in both Oklahoma and Massachusetts are just the beginning of coordinated legal efforts to bring opioid drug manufacturers to accountability. Thousands of individuals lawsuits are being consolidated into a class action or multidistrict litigations. If you or your family have been affected by the opioid epidemic, it may be high time to talk to a lawyer about your legal options to seek financial compensation from the drugs’ manufacturers.

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