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Purdue Pharma settles Oklahoma opioid lawsuit for $270 million

Purdue Pharma reaches $270M settlement
  • OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma will pay $270 million to settle litigation with Oklahoma over the drugmaker's role in opioid deaths in the state.
  • $200 million of the settlement amount will go toward creating an addiction research center at Oklahoma State University.
  • Some critics said the deal denies opioid victims and their families a chance to make their case in court.

Purdue Pharma has reached a settlement with the state of Oklahoma over claims the maker of the painkiller OxyContin helped fuel an opioid epidemic that killed thousands of residents in the state.

The pharmaceutical company, based in Stamford, Connecticut, and owned by the Sackler family, will pay $270 million to resolve the lawsuit, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Tuesday. Of that amount, nearly $200 million will go toward establishing the National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, while local governments will get $12.5 million. Twenty million dollars will be set aside for addiction treatment medication, and the remaining $60 million will pay for the state's litigation costs to date.

"The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we're doing something about it today," Hunter said.

"It's going to save countless lives and it is going to keep families together. And it's going to be the tip of the spear in terms of leading the nation out of the addiction epidemic that has claimed just this year 70,000 lives," he added.

Purdue, the maker of OxyContin since 1996, faces more than 1,000 lawsuits in connection with the opioid crisis. The Oklahoma deal is the first settlement to emerge from the thicket of lawsuits.

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"Kick in the gut"

Attorney Paul Hanly, who not involved in the Oklahoma case but who is representing other plaintiffs in opioid litigation, cheered the settlement. "That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem," he said. "Hopefully, this is the first of many."

But some activists decried the agreement, saying they preferred to plead their case in court.

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"This decision is a kick in the gut to our community," Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from opioid addiction, told the AP. "We deserve to have our day in court with Purdue. The parents, the families, the survivors deserve at least that. And Oklahoma stripped that from us today."

He added: "We cannot allow Purdue to cut backroom deals with state attorneys general."

An attorney for Purdue Pharma did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

More deadly than cars

Drugs like OxyContin, along with illegal opiods such as heroin, were linked to a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Oklahoma, some 400 deaths were related to opioids that year. According to state figures, more Oklahomans have died from opioids over the last decade than have been killed in vehicle accidents.

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The Sackler family will contribute $75 million of the $270 million settlement, according to AP. As the death toll has climbed from the opioid crisis, the family has faced personal lawsuits and growing public pressure.

The Sacklers are major philanthropists known for their donations to range of universities, arts organizations and other non-profit groups. But in recent weeks, London's Tate Museum in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have severed their relationship with the family.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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