The prescription drug company that created the potent painkiller OxyContin is set to shell out $20 million to settle a class action lawsuit fought by thousands of Canadian patients who say they became addicted to the substance after it was prescribed by their doctors.
It’s one of numerous completed and ongoing court cases across North America against Purdue Pharma, the drugmaker giant that’s been widely blamed for sparking an opioid overdose crisis that’s taken thousands of lives and has been called one of the worst drug safety crises in the U.S. and Canada.
The complaints “stem from marketing activities that allegedly occurred primarily between 1996 and 2001.”
The proposed settlement in the Canadian case — which started in 2007 and included 2,000 claimants — includes a $2 million payment to various provincial governments that have had to spend significantly more in recent years to treat patients who have become addicted to opioids, the Globe and Mail reported on Monday. A court will still need to approve the settlement.
In an email statement to VICE News, a Purdue spokesperson wrote that as part of the proposed settlement, the company is not making any admission of liability and “maintains its focus on developing [and] providing innovative medicines to patients and on supporting quality education for the safe and appropriate use of its products.”
The spokesperson added that in this case, the complaints “stem from marketing activities that allegedly occurred primarily between 1996 and 2001.”
A number of media reports and court cases have delved into how Purdue’s intense marketing of OxyContin as a safer, less addictive opioid helped turn it into one of the most popular the industry has ever seen — with profits in the U.S. and Canada soaring above $30 billion (USD) over the last 25 years. But after years of people reporting they had become dependent and addicted to the drug, the company eventually admitted it knew the risks associated with it. In 2007, the company and three of its top executives were ordered to pay $634.5 million to settle both criminal and civil cases against them for misleading health officials and the public about the possible addictive properties of Oxycontin.
It’s calling on the company to pay for the widespread rates of overdose and addiction plaguing the city of 100,000.
Earlier this year, the city of Everett in the state of Washington became the first municipality to file its own lawsuit against Purdue over allegations that it ignored illegal trafficking of OxyContin there in order to “reap large and obscene profits.” Further, it’s calling on the company to pay for the widespread rates of overdose and addiction plaguing the city of 100,000. Lawyers for the city cited a 2016 Los Angeles Times investigation that found that a security team for the company followed healthcare practitioners it believed were working with illicit drug dealers, but did very little to stop it.