In the first of what will likely amount to billions of dollars in legal settlements shelled out by the Oxycontin creator, Purdue Pharma has reportedly agreed to pay $270 million to settle claims brought by the Oklahoma attorney general that the company's aggressive and misleading marketing practices, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited an anonymous source familiar with the settlement.
Opioid deaths have skyrocketed in recent years as the federal government has cracked down on overprescribing of pharmaceutical grade opioids, forcing more addicted users to turn to street drugs like heroin, which are increasingly cut with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, causing a surge in overdose deaths that are presently killing more Americans a year than died during the entire war in Vietnam.
The settlement is the first to resolve one of the more than 1,600 lawsuits facing the privately held drugmaker, which is reportedly weighing a bankruptcy filing to avoid what's expected to be an immense legal burden.
Courtesy of Statista
The billionaire Sackler family, which own privately-held Purdue, have been subjected to widespread public scorn over revelations that certain members pushed Purdue to misrepresent OxyContin's addictive qualities in its marketing materials and research, to help boost sales of the drug. NYC's Guggenheim has said it will no longer accept donations from the family, joining a growing list of museums and nonprofits that have cut their ties with the Sacklers. The pill, which was prescribed to treat surgery and cancer pain, was widely prescribed during the 2000s, and quickly became the gold standard for pharmaceutical-grade opioids sold on the street in the US. Oxy - as it came to be called - was widely derided as "heroin in a pill", and helped spawn a new generation of opioid addicts who were introduced to the class of drugs via presumably "safer" pharmaceuticals.
After years of unchecked abuse, federal and state governments cracked down on OxyContin, forcing Purdue and other drugmakers to produce abuse-resistant versions of OxyContin, while imposing new limitations and guidelines for prescribers to eliminate so-called "pill mills". But the damage had already been done. The rate of heroin abuse in the US climbed from roughly half a person per 1,000 in 2002 to nearly 3 per 1,000 by the end of 2013, according to data from the CDC. Drug overdose deaths soared to a record high of roughly 70,000 last year, a rise that was largely fueled by deadly street drugs like fentanyl-laced heroin, according to the federal government.