Lawsuits, bankruptcy and what you need to know



Hulu’s new drama Sick is a radical attempt to tell the story of America’s opioid epidemic to as many people as possible: patients and families, politicians and regulators, pharmaceutical representatives and big pharmaceutical companies. Adapted from Beth Macy’s 2018 investigative novel of the same name, the show traces how OxyContin was aggressively marketed in the early ’90s, leading to increased prescriptions and subsequent abuse of the drug. The giant company leading the charge was Purdue Pharma, which, after thousands of lawsuits, was dissolved in september by a federal bankruptcy court. Here’s what you need to know.

What is Purdue Pharma?

Purdue Pharma is the pharmaceutical company that makes OxyContin, America’s most popular opioid pain reliever and the backbone of Purdue’s business. According to a ProPublica delving into Purdue’s records, Oxyontin held “over 28% of the total market share” for the decade starting in 2008. Since Purdue brought the drug to market in 1995, the company’s sales have totaled over $ 35 billion, with Purdue owners receiving at least $ 8 billion in profits.

Who owns Purdue Pharma?

A famous name you will hear in connection with the opioid crisis is Sackler, the family that has owned Purdue Pharma since 1992 and has been regularly cited in lawsuits against opioid companies. But the name may sound familiar even if you haven’t been following the lawsuits. The Sacklers are philanthropists, although they have more recently been accused of using donations as a form of “reputation laundering. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York said it would stop accepting donations from the Sacklers, but it did not rename the Wing Sackler, which houses the Egyptian temple of Dendur. There is a Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian, and the the name Sackler has been removed from the Serpentine Gallery in London.

What happens in the trials?

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against opioid companies, including Purdue but also better-known names like Johnson & Johnson. The lawsuits have been brought by individual opioid users and their families, but also by municipalities, states and tribal authorities. Many of these cases have been Streamlined in Multi-District Litigation in Ohio, which alleges that opioid manufacturers aggressively marketed opioids while minimizing the risk of abuse they posed. Purdue was a named defendant until the company filed for bankruptcy in 2019. The Sacklers have denied wrongdoing and maintain that they have always behaved ethically and legally.

What has happened since the bankruptcy?

For a while, not much happened. In September, however, a bankruptcy court approved a settlement that will see the Sacklers pay $ 4.5 billion out of their estimated at $ 13 billion for litigation costs and addiction treatment support across the country. Purdue Pharma, no longer owned by the Sacklers, will see future benefits of opioids dedicated to the treatment and prevention of substance abuse. The Sacklers have also agreed to release treasured corporate documents that tell more about Purdue’s marketing strategy as well as its level of understanding of the risks posed by opioids.

Why is the bankruptcy settlement being appealed?

Because the settlement took place in bankruptcy court, there was no open trial, meaning there was no full calculation of Purdue’s role in the opioid crisis. But perhaps the biggest sticking point is that the bankruptcy settlement largely protects the Sackler family from personal liability. Even after the distribution of $ 4.5 billion, according to New York Times, “They will remain among the richest families in the country. “



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