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Opioid lawsuits generate payouts, controversy

In the biggest opioid case to date, Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, reached a tentative settlement last week with 23 states and attorneys representing roughly 2,000 local governments. The deal would have Purdue Pharma file for bankruptcy, which the company did on Sunday, and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with up to $4.5 billion coming from the Sackler family, which owns the company. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs currently in development.

The manufacturer of OxyContin is facing lawsuits from dozens of states and thousands of local governments.

The manufacturer of OxyContin is facing lawsuits from dozens of states and thousands of local governments.

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Several large states including New York, California, Virginia, Illinois, Washington, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Connecticut oppose the agreement and could fight Purdue Pharma in bankruptcy proceedings. They want more money and more accountability from the company and from the Sacklers. If the settlement is not approved, a trial would start next month in Cleveland.

Many states have also filed suits personally against the Sackler family. According to The Wall Street Journal, Purdue Pharma is also negotiating separately with the U.S. Justice Department to resolve criminal and civil probes.

Earlier this year, Purdue agreed to pay $270 million in a settlement with Oklahoma. In 2007, Purdue Pharma and some of its top executives paid $635 million in fines for misleading marketing. Last month, an Oklahoma court ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay more than $570 million for its role in promoting the opioid crisis.

Other large companies — including McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aid among others — have also faced legal action. States argue that these companies marketed these drugs in a misleading way, downplaying the risks and exaggerating the benefits. They also claim distributors supplied millions of pills when they should have realized there was a problem and the drugs were being abused.

America’s opioid crisis has ravaged urban, suburban and rural communities in every state. Studies show that 115 people die every day in the United States from opioid overdose, 400,000 deaths in the past 20 years. More than 2 million people are currently living with an opioid-related substance use disorder.

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