Opioid Crisis Settlement Divides Victims Of OxyContin Manufacturer

While the settlement between the manufacturer of OxyContin and the thousands of lawsuits related to opioid harm has the potential to address the overdose epidemic triggered by the painkiller, it doesn’t guarantee satisfaction for all victims.

By surrendering ownership of Purdue Pharma and committing up to $6 billion to combat the crisis, the affluent Sackler family members would be granted immunity from civil lawsuits. Simultaneously, they could potentially retain billions of dollars in profits from OxyContin sales.

The Supreme Court is scheduled to consider arguments on December 4 regarding whether the agreement, a component of Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy resolution, violates federal law.

The key concern for the justices revolves around whether the bankruptcy’s legal protection can be extended to individuals like the Sacklers who have not personally filed for bankruptcy. This legal inquiry has led to divergent decisions in lower courts and carries implications for other significant product liability lawsuits resolved through the bankruptcy system.

However, the agreement, despite allocating billions for opioid treatment initiatives, presents a moral dilemma that has created divisions among those who have suffered the loss of loved ones.

In 2018, Ellen Isaacs’ 33-year-old son, Ryan Wroblewski, passed away in Florida, nearly 17 years after initially being prescribed OxyContin for a back injury. Initially supportive of a settlement that could provide compensation for individuals like her, she has since reconsidered her decision.

She expressed that financial compensation might not provide the closure she seeks. Moreover, endorsing the deal could potentially give rise to additional complications.

Purdue Pharma’s forceful promotion of OxyContin is frequently identified as a key factor in the nationwide opioid epidemic. The marketing strategy influenced doctors to prescribe painkillers with less consideration for the risks of addiction.

In 2007, the company entered a guilty plea for misbranding the drug and settled by paying over $600 million in fines and penalties.

Opioid-related overdose deaths have persistently risen, reaching 80,000 in recent years. This is partly attributed to individuals with substance abuse disorders encountering increased difficulty in obtaining pills, leading them to turn to heroin and, more recently, fentanyl.

Pharmaceutical firms, wholesalers, and pharmacies have collectively agreed to pay over $50 billion in settlements for lawsuits brought by state, local, Native American tribal governments and others. These legal actions alleged that the company’s marketing, sales, and monitoring practices played a role in fueling the opioid epidemic.

The settlement with Purdue Pharma is poised to be one of the most substantial. Notably, it is one of only two settlements that include provisions for direct compensation to victims of the crisis. Payments from a $750 million fund are anticipated to range from approximately $3,500 to $48,000.