Purdue Pharma Just Settled a Major Lawsuit in Oklahoma for $270 Million

A major player in the opioid crisis seeks to stem its losses—and avoid more scrutiny

Toby Talbot/A

Let our journalists help you make sense of the noise: Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter and get a recap of news that matters.

Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, will pay $270 million to settle a case brought by the Oklahoma Attorney General for helping to lay the groundwork of America’s opioid epidemic. The settlement, announced Tuesday, comes two months before the scheduled start of a televised trial.

The bulk of settlement money will fund a nearly $200 million endowment at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, which will treat “the ongoing addiction epidemic nationwide,” according to a statement from state Attorney General Mike Hunter’s office. In addition, the Sackler family, which is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, pledged a $75 million donation to the center on Tuesday.

Only $12.5 million of the settlement—less than 5 percent of the funding—will directly address the epidemic’s ongoing effects in Oklahoma’s cities and counties. Last year, more than 3,000 Oklahomans were admitted to the hospital for non-fatal overdoses; each year, roughly 700 residents die of overdoses.

This marks the first settlement in a flood of more than 1,000 lawsuits brought against the company in recent years by state and local governments for its role in the opioid epidemic, which included heavily marketing OxyContin and misleading regulators, doctors, and patients about the pills’ addictive qualities. The settlement means that the public will not hear details of how the company promoted the addictive pills to doctors and patients. The next possibility for exposure of those tactics may come this fall, when multi-district litigation consolidating dozens of lawsuits from across the country is set to go to trial in Ohio. 

Purdue officials acknowledged earlier this month that they were considering filing for bankruptcy because of the wave of lawsuits. Declaring bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily the mean the company would go out of business; it could use bankruptcy as a tool to consolidate the lawsuits it faces and cap the amount of damages it might have to pay. 

Purdue has settled previous cases over the years for lesser amounts, including a $10 million West Virginia settlement in 2004. And in 2007, three company executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges for misbranding the narcotic.

Note: This article has been updated. 

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate