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OKLAHOMA CITY — The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed to pay $270 million in a deal announced Tuesday with the state of Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped set off the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller.

It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave of lawsuits against Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma that threaten to push the company into bankruptcy and have stained the name of the Sackler family, whose members are among the world’s foremost philanthropists.

“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we’re doing something about it today,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said.


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. The Sackler family is responsible for $75 million of the settlement.

The deal comes two months before Oklahoma’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other drug companies was set to become the first one in the barrage of litigation to go to trial.


Plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, welcomed the deal, saying: “That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem. Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

But some activists were furious, saying they were denied the chance to hold Purdue Pharma fully accountable in public, in front of a jury.

“This decision is a kick in the gut to our community,” said Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from opioid addiction. “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.

Opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs like OxyContin, were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma recorded about 400 opioid deaths that year. State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahomans have died from opioids than in vehicle crashes.

Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in the 1990s and marketed it aggressively to doctors, making tens of billions of dollars from the drug. But has been hit with close to 2,000 lawsuits from state and local governments trying to hold the company responsible for the scourge of addiction.

The lawsuits accuse the company of downplaying the addiction risks and pushing doctors to increase dosages even as the dangers became known. According to a court filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, proudly told the audience at a launch party for OxyContin in 1996 that it would create a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Purdue Pharma has settled other lawsuits over the years, and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2007. But this is the first settlement to come out of the surge of litigation that focuses largely on the company’s more recent conduct.

The agreement was announced after the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Monday denied a request from drug makers to postpone the start of the state’s trial in late May. The remaining defendants in Oklahoma’s 2017 lawsuit still face trial.

Lance Lang, a 36-year-old recovering user from Oklahoma City, said he is glad some of the settlement will go toward helping those still suffering from addiction.

“My heart breaks for those that we’ve already lost. I’ve buried several myself,” said Lang, who now helps recovering users find housing. “But I also know we have waiting lists of dozens and dozens for our facilities, and the state has waiting lists of hundreds and hundreds of people who need help right now.”

But Cheryl Juaire, whose 23-year-old son Corey died of an overdose in 2011, said she was devastated to hear about the settlement. She had been organizing a group of hundreds of mothers to go to the first day of the trial and stand outside with photos of their dead children.

Jauire, who lives in Marlborough, Massachusetts, said a complete airing of the facts is the only way to fully hold Purdue to account.

“They can’t settle,” she said. “That would be a huge disservice to the tens of thousands of families here in the United States who buried a child. That’s blood money from our children.”

As the accusations have mounted, the Sacklers have faced personal lawsuits and growing public pressure. A Massachusetts court filing made public earlier this year found that family members were paid at least $4 billion from 2007 until last year.

The Sacklers are major donors to cultural institutions, and the family name is emblazoned on the walls at many of the world’s great museums and universities. But in the past few weeks, the Tate museums in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have cut ties with the family, and other institutions have come under pressure to turn down donations or remove the Sackler name.

This month, Purdue Pharma officials acknowledged that are considering filing for bankruptcy because of the crush of lawsuits.

More than 1,400 federal lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies have been consolidated in front of a single judge in Cleveland who is pushing the drugmakers and distributors to reach a nationwide settlement with state and local governments.

— Ken Miller and Geoff Mulvihill

  • The bigger picture is being missed in this subject. The underlying problems are the issues at hand and to what end will the users be held accountable? I have received IV opioids and I can certainly see why someone would fall in love with them. I have been give various prescriptions for pain and have trashed them all as I could immediately see the damage they were causing. I think one the biggest dangers of these drugs are they way they can medicate unresolved psychological problems and become a dependency in predisposed individuals.

  • Oxytocin cost me my business my family, friends and years of fighting this horrible drug addiction my average income was 250k a year to Social security disability guess the state of Oklahoma will get paid what about the ones who’s lost everything

  • Do any of us chronic pain patients see any of the settlement money? For the suffering we go through daily because of the CDC guidelines and doctors forcing patients off their treatment meds and not offering any alternative treatment what so ever ! Just kicking us to the curb!

  • My ex-husband and I were married for 18 years. Durring that time he became terribly addicted to opiate pain meds. He had a neck injury from childhood that would periodically (not very often) cause his neck to freeze up and caused him pain that led him eventually to a pain management doctor in Ft. Meyers Florida. He was overprescribed multiple prescriptions OxyContin among them. My life was terrible. He was completely dysfunctional. I had to sleep with my purse, money and car keys in my arms (when I could sleep) to prevent bad things from happening due to his drug induced insanity. He went to multiple doctors to lie and get prescriptions. He went to all the ER’s. The bills were astronomical. The answering machine ran out of tape daily from medical bill collectors. I had to work 2 jobs just to keep rent, insurance, food and the basics. He had been to rehab and NA. Noting worked. Eventually I had to flee while he was passed out. I divorced him to preserve what was left of my sanity. I do not know if he is alive. He has disappeared. Either dead or a street junkie most likely. Very sad. These drug companies and pusher doctors so called pain management caused this and recently read that there were many others in my situation. So much damage. I would like to be in on a class action law suit if my situation is cause for it. There has been much pain and suffering on my part as well.

    • I was prescribed Percocet 5mg 30 tabs a month and took them for 3 year’s at that time I was taken off of them because I was becoming addicted to them. Which was a big mistake I was sick as a dog major withdrawal s so I went to the Emergency room for overdose withdrawal symptoms from being out of my oxycodone. Now I know that if you were prescribed it by a doctor and have a hospilazation then you qualify for a Lawsuit in that matter or in a civil class action lawsuit. My question is I remember back in the day I signed the petition to Ban Oxycontin and it worked it took that chemical away but it is still out there running our streets. My question is how do I become involved with being a class suit where do I go? I also was seeing different attorneys that represent you if you were prescribed it within the statue of limitations and must be hospitalized or went to rehab. I tell you what I have spents thousands of dollars lost good paying jobs. Please tell me where I need to go so I can be apart of the Lawsuit as I qualify. Now if you got just hooked from taking it reacrational and not by a prescription then you do not qualify you as they will judge you and call you a drug addict just looking for a fix. But please anyone please tell me where I should go to be apart of the Oxycontin lawsuit or civil class lawsuit I qualify and have attorneys to represent me in regards to this matter.

  • Why is the DRUG MANUFACTURER being solely held. Responsible? WHAT ABOUT THE STUPID DOCTORS THAT OVER PRESCRIBED AND KILLED PATIENTS? Like my sister? This is B.S. you were NEVER able to legally get this drug w/o a perscription!

  • Thank you for giving me the opportunity to comment on our own personal nightmare regarding OxyContin.
    My husband David G Leyba was in an automobile accident approximately 1988 he was not expected to live, but he did. He has lived with a great deal of pain since the accident. In 1994/1995 our doctor introduced him to OxyContin 1, 10 mg once a day, which he was on this dosage for about 11 years. In 2005 we were transferred to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and there he was required to go to a pain management doctor which she did. Immediately upon going to his pain management doctor his dosage was increased to 2 OxyContin 20 mg (if my memory serves me correctly) & 3 10 mg Percocet a day. By the time we left Oklahoma in 1998 this pain management doctor had him on 2 40 mg of OxyContin & 3 10 mg of Percocet daily.
    My husband is addicted by now to these drugs and cannot go a day without these pain meds nor can he tolerate any, any kind of pain. Not only was this horrific for him but it was horrific for his family me & our children.
    Trying every way possible including buying a safe to lock them up and distribute the correct dosage daily proved to be a failure. He needed more & more to the point that he stole my pain meds after my back surgery, the constant lying & stealing to satisfy his addiction nearly cost us our marriage, & his life. It cost him his job and his self-worth.

    In 2013 he overdosed on sleeping pills because he had no drugs left to take, he was utterly miserable. I called 911 and he was taken to the hospital and had his stomach pumped & at my request admitted to a hospital rehab center. Not only did we suffer through the loss of his job, medical expenses. I could not have done it without my family & Church family. He currently works with a psychiatrist who monitors the drug Suboxone.

    OxyContin has taken it’s toll on our lives since 2005 -2013 & he is alive only because of the will of God and for no other reason. It is my opinion a pain management doctor should have been helping with therapy & not with medicine like OxyContin. Shame on the distributors who offer to give bonuses to doctors for writing these prescriptions and getting people addicted to these drugs, shame on them.!!!
    My husband deserves just as much as anyone else for his pain and suffering and to be a part of any lawsuit. We would like to have more information on any class action lawsuit regarding OxyContin. We currently live in Utah and he lived on OK for about 4.5 years

    Thank you! We look forward to your reply.

  • I’ve been on oxycontin for years 160 40 mg tablets a month plus 250 Percodan a month and 150 Percocet a month and 80 20mg seupedol
    (oxycodone) now on 150 micrograms of fentanyl in my opinion they are both miracle drugs period with out them I would be dead

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