Purdue Pharma, the organization that revolutionized the prescription painkiller business with its drug OxyContin, has proposed a $10 billion bankruptcy plan, transforming their strategy to funnel profits into the fight against the opioid crisis. The new settlement plan put forth by the Sacklers, the billionaire family that owns the Connecticut-based company, is $1.3 billion higher than the original offer, for a total of $4.2 billion.
The formal offer to settle over 2,900 lawsuits from state and local governments, Native American tribes, hospitals and other entities has been accepted by many, however attorney generals representing 23 states and the District of Columbia have issued a statement expressing their disappointment. “We are disappointed in this plan. While it contains improvements over the proposal that Purdue announced and we rejected in September 2019, it falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve.”
The proposed $4.2 billion is just a drop in the bucket when looking at the cost of the opioid crisis fueled by Purdue Pharma. In the Economic Impact of Non-Medical Opioid Use in the United States, the Society of Actuaries estimates that the total economic burden of the opioid crisis just between 2015 to 2018 was at least $631 billion.
Purdue Pharma is now proposing to become a private company that would manufacture the drugs to treat addiction and reverse overdoses, while continuing to produce OxyContin and other opioids. Despite stating that the new company would be overseen by an independent board of managers with backgrounds in fields such as public health policy, corporate governance, law enforcement as well as pharmaceuticals, this decision continues to pose several ethical issues regarding the continued production of OxyContin. Just last November the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont uncovered that Purdue Pharma had paid Practice Fusion, an EHR vendor, nearly $1 million to embed a prompt to cause doctors to prescribe Purdue’s extended-release opioid products.
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