Facing Historic Lawsuits, Purdue Pharma Considers Bankruptcy

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• March 4, 2019 3:16 pm


Purdue Pharma, makers of the potent opioid painkiller OxyContin, is considering filing for bankruptcy as it faces nearly 2,000 lawsuits related to its role in the opioid crisis.

The pharmaceutical firm and its owners, the ultra-wealthy Sackler family, face a legal onslaught which could eclipse even the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, Reuters reports.

The company stands accused of using deceptive and misleading marketing practices to push opioid painkillers for long-term use on doctors and patients based on nearly non-existent scientific evidence. More than 1,600 states, cities, and other municipalities are suing, in a case consolidated in federal court in Northern Ohio.

At least one state, Massachusetts, is also suing members of the Sackler family in their individual capacity, as the once-celebrated name acquires increasing infamy in the worlds of philanthropy and public health.

Filing for bankruptcy would stop the litigation pressure and allow Purdue to negotiate a settlement out of federal court, under the supervision of a bankruptcy court judge. A company representative declined to comment to Reuters, saying only that "We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners."

The pharmaceutical firm is in large part implicated in the opioid crisis thanks to its marketing of OxyContin, a long-lasting painkiller which contains high concentrations of the opioid oxycodone. The drug's high volume of opiate, combined with Purdue's aggressive advertising strategy, has been tied by litigators to its popularity among opioid users who eventually overdose and die.

Purdue for its part denies wrongdoing, claiming that the Food and Drug Administration approved warning labels for its products that made clear the risk associated with abuse and misuse of opioids.

The pharmaceutical firm has yet to settle on whether or not it will declare bankruptcy. If it were to go to trial, it would likely face penalties far in excess of the $634.5 million Purdue and three of its executives were forced to pay as part of a 2007 federal case.