Efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies, pharmacies and distributors accountable for their role in the opioid crisis have resulted in a whirlwind of legal activity in the US that can be hard to keep track of.
There are currently three lawsuits in Florida, West Virginia and Washington state. Almost every week, new legal agreements are reached to provide governments with money to fight the crisis, and in some cases funds for medicines to treat overdoses or to help with treatment.
In total, more than 3,000 lawsuits have been filed by state and local governments, Indian tribes, labor unions, hospitals and others in state and federal courts over opioid losses. Most argue that the industry has created public inconvenience in a crisis that involved the deaths of 500,000 Americans over the past two decades.
Collectively, businesses have already faced settlements, court decisions, and civil and criminal sanctions totaling more than $47 billion. The main targets are companies that made and sold pills; enterprises that distributed them; and pharmacies that sell them.
Here is an overview of litigation and settlements involving various companies:
Purdue is the manufacturer of OxyContin, an extended-release version of oxycodone that contains higher dose tablets. The drug, launched in 1996, has become a widely sold blockbuster drug and is closely linked to the first wave of the epidemic.
Like other opioids, it has been touted not only for postoperative and cancer pain, but also for chronic pain, an area where physicians were previously reluctant to prescribe such powerful drugs.
Facing thousands of lawsuits, the company filed in bankruptcy protection in 2019 to help reach a settlement.
Deal already closedbut this is not final.
It calls for members of the Sackler family who own the company to give up their stakes so that it becomes a new profit-making entity known as Knoa Pharma, funding the fight against the opioid crisis. In addition, family members must pay between $5.5 billion and $6 billion over time, with some of the money going to the victims.
Earlier this year, three family members visited online hearing in which parents described the loss of children due to an addiction that started with OxyContin, and people recovering from addiction described their paths.
As part of the exchange, members of the Sackler family will receive protection from lawsuits over opioids.
In order for the settlement to be completed, the higher court must reverse the judge’s decision. ruling canceling an earlier version of a transaction. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 29 at the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Meanwhile, activists and some US Senators asking the Justice Department to look into charges against family members.
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