U.S. pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, the maker of opioid painkiller OxyContin, has reached a new settlement with eight U.S. states and the District of Columbia to pay up to $6 billion in damages for the company’s role in the U.S. opioid epidemic.
The deal, described in a court filing Thursday in White Plains, New York, came after the plaintiffs appealed an earlier settlement late last year, saying it did not properly hold the Sackler family, which owns the drug company, accountable. The new settlement includes more money and other terms, including an apology from the family.
In exchange, the settlement provides the Sacklers with protection from further litigation. It does not protect them from criminal prosecution, though there are no charges pending.
In a prepared statement, the family said, “While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities.”
The plaintiffs in the case, which include numerous local jurisdictions as well as state attorney generals, maintained Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family fueled the U.S. opioid epidemic through deceptive marketing of the highly addictive pain medicine.
A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said that beginning in the late 1990s, doctors increased prescriptions of opioid medications after drugmakers assured them they were nonaddictive. That led to widespread misuse of both prescription and nonprescription opioids before it became clear that the medications could indeed be highly addictive.
By 2017, HHS declared a public health emergency over opioid abuse. The agency said that in 2019, 10.1 million people were misusing opioids and 70,630 had died from overdoses.
The company has pleaded guilty of misbranding and fraud charges related to its marketing of OxyContin, though the Sackler family has denied wrongdoing.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.