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Will Purdue Pharma Settle Nearly 2,000 OxyContin Lawsuits?

The company alleged to have helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis has so far not admitted to doing anything wrong.

OxyContin container on pharmacy shelf, closeup of label / PureRadiancePhoto / Shutterstock.com

This week the maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, announced a $270 million settlement with the State of Oklahoma over claims that it had knowingly helped create the nation’s opioid crisis. This is the first settlement by the drug company that has been hit with nearly 2,000 lawsuits alleging that it not only knew about the risks of the drug, but actively marketed its product in order to profit from its addictive qualities.

We’ve been watching the growing legal issues surrounding OxyContin with interest because they fall into several areas of personal injury law that we specialize in, from products liability to wrongful death. Generally, companies have a legal responsibility to protect consumers from any known flaws in their products. If they actively turn a blind eye to evidence of risks, and someone ends up getting injured or even killed by the product, the company may be held responsible.

Svetta Chizh / Shutterstock.com

In the Oklahoma lawsuit over OxyContin — like many others in the legal pipeline — the State of Oklahoma claimed that Purdue Pharma deceived the consuming public into believing its opioid product was safe for extended use. In settling the case before it went to trial, Purdue Pharma and its principle owners, the Sackler family, admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to pay out $270 million to help advance addiction studies and treatment in the state.

If Purdue and the Sacklers (who have made nearly $4 billion from OxyContin profits) were to pay this same amount in every case against them, it would total more than half a trillion dollars. That won’t happen, but the settlement does raise hope that justice will be served, and that there will be some meaningful compensation for states, families, and individuals who have been deeply harmed by the widespread market penetration of the drug.