On October 21, 2020, the Justice Department announced in a report that Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company that produces OxyContin, pled guilty to criminal charges related to the company’s involvement in the opioid epidemic. As part of a settlement agreement with the Justice Department, Purdue will also pay over $8 billion in fines. In addition to the criminal charges and penalties, the Justice Department settlement could pave the way for future lawsuits to be pursued against Purdue.
Details of the Justice Department Report
Despite the Justice Department’s settlement of Purdue’s case, the drug company still faces thousands of lawsuits on state and federal levels. Purdue has previously said that the resolution of federal charges would allow the company to settle cases with other groups, including states, cities, and individuals. Similarly, new lawsuits could still be filed against the opioid producer. In a statement, Purdue Pharma chairman of the board, Steve Miller, expressed regret and responsibility on behalf of Purdue for the company’s involvement in the opioid crisis. In addition to penalties imposed on Purdue Pharma, the company’s owners have agreed to pay over $200 million in civil penalties related to their involvement.
Background on Purdue Pharma
Purdue Pharma has faced much criticism from public and government organizations for its involvement in the opioid crisis in the United States. Purdue began selling OxyContin in 1996 through controversial drug marketing campaigns. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription opioids such as OxyContin are often prescribed to treat pain and can be highly addictive. As part of the Justice Department settlement, Purdue agreed to pay $2.8 billion in penalties for marketing tactics that led to the unnecessary prescription of opioids to patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), around 450,000 people have died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2018. The CDC attributes many opioid-related deaths to the increased amount of prescription opioids provided to individuals.
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