US opioid maker Purdue reaches $270 mn settlement in key lawsuit

Chicago (AFP) –


Purdue Pharma, accused of helping fuel the US opioid addiction epidemic with its painkiller OxyContin, has reached a $270 million settlement in a key lawsuit brought by the state of Oklahoma, officials announced Tuesday.

The settlement was the first of its kind to address the national addiction crisis that kills 130 Americans a day.

The bulk of the money will go toward establishing an addiction treatment and research center at Oklahoma State University, Purdue said in a press release.

The drug manufacturer also agreed to not promote or market opioids in the state, in what was a "non-negotiable part" of the deal, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said.

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

"Today's agreement is only the first step in our ultimate goal of ending this nightmarish epidemic," he said.

Purdue is facing hundreds of lawsuits in the US over claims that OxyContin causes addiction. The Oklahoma case was the first scheduled for trial.

Two other companies are still defendants in the civil case: Johnson & Johnson and Teva.

Purdue said $75 million of the settlement will be paid by the Sackler family, members of which own the company.

The family's philanthropic efforts have recently been rebuffed by non-profit institutions -- underscoring the growing unease with the main source of the philanthropic dynasty's riches: revenue from sales of OxyContin.

- 400,000 death toll -

"Purdue is very pleased to have reached an agreement with Oklahoma that will help those who are battling addiction now and in the future," company CEO Craig Landau said in a statement.

The settlement comes just a day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected an appeal by opioid manufacturers to delay the civil trial in the state.

Purdue is the only one to settle.

Hunter last month said his office had obtained confidential documents showing Purdue launched a "disinformation campaign" to cover up the epidemic, and that "executives were more interested in spreading propaganda than stopping the death toll."

But Landau insisted the company had "a long history of working to address the problem of prescription opioid abuse."

"We see this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis."

Overdoses from prescription painkillers and heroin -- a last-resort illicit drug for opioid addicts -- exploded over the last 20 years, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Almost 400,000 people have died from an overdose involving prescription or illicit opioids, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pop icon Prince and rocker Tom Petty were among the most high profile victims of the epidemic.