he maker of the pain pill OxyContin filed an appeal on Monday of a Kentucky judge’s decision to unseal records related to how the drug was marketed and what company officials knew about the addictive properties of the potent opioid.
The notice of appeal by Purdue Pharma, filed in Pike Circuit Court in eastern Kentucky, triggered the beginning of the appeals process and did not contain any legal arguments challenging the judge’s decision. After a month to six weeks of procedural matters, it is expected both sides will begin arguing the case in briefings to the Kentucky Appeals Court. That process could take up to five months. The appeals court, consisting of three judges, will then decide to either conduct oral arguments on the case or rule on the matter based only on the briefings.
In a May 11 decision, Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ordered the release of secret documents filed with the court as part of a lawsuit by the state of Kentucky against Purdue. He delayed the release of the documents for 32 days to allow for an appeal, and they will remain sealed while his ruling is being contested.
STAT filed a motion with the court in March to unseal the records. The sealed documents include a deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, a former president of Purdue and a member of the family that controls the privately held company. His deposition, taken last year in Kentucky, is believed to be the only time a member of the Sackler family has been questioned under oath about the marketing of OxyContin and the risks of addiction to the drug. The aggressive marketing of OxyContin and the ability of addicts to easily convert the potent pill to powder or liquid form is blamed by some researchers for helping to trigger the epidemic of opioid abuse that began with painkillers and now includes heroin and fentanyl.
Kentucky filed its lawsuit against Purdue in 2007 in Pike County, alleging the company misled consumers and doctors about the risks of addiction associated with OxyContin and the proper use of the drug. In December, Purdue agreed to pay Kentucky $24 million to settle the lawsuit. The money is to be used for addiction prevention and treatment programs, and other public health initiatives. Purdue did not admit to any wrongdoing.