Oklahoma is the first state to file a lawsuit against the OxyContin producer. graphic by Conner Maggio

Okla. lawsuit against Purdue Pharma essential for setting precedent

Oklahoma is responding to state revenue lost to citizens addicted to opioids by filing a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma.

A new lawsuit has been brought by the State of Oklahoma against pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma. A trial date has been set intended to be served May 28 and is the first of its kind in the country, though other states are preparing similar suits. Filed by State Attorney General Mike Hunter, the lawsuit argues that companies responsible for producing opioids lied about the risk of addiction and their potential benefits.

The opioid epidemic first escalated in 1996 when Purdue Pharma created its new drug, known as OxyContin, which was touted to alleviate the symptom of persistent pain. Over the past two decades, the prescription and use of OxyContin has grown massively throughout the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control, treatment for opioid addiction has risen from around 1 in 10,000 to around 4 in 10,000. In the years since its inception, it has been found that opioids like OxyContin are the cause of mass addiction and have killed thousands through overdosing.

According to Attorney General Hunter, this is especially true in Oklahoma: around 2,700 Oklahomans have died from overdosing in the last three years alone. Additionally, Oklahoma had the highest milligrams of OxyContin prescribed per adult resident in the entire United States in 2016. The lawsuit argues that Purdue Pharma should be required to answer for both the lives lost and the price that the Oklahoma government has had to pay in combating the issue.

This lawsuit is a good step forward in providing justice for those who were misled into taking the medication and will hopefully provide financial and emotional restitution for those who have struggled with opioid addiction in the state.

According to a similar upcoming lawsuit in Massachusetts, the head of Purdue Pharma, Dr. Richard Sackler, is accused of purposely shifting the blame away from the company and onto the people who are now addicted.
An email in 2001 by Sackler stated, “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.” Purdue Pharma and its leaders’ main goals are not based on helping those who are in pain but are rather solely focused on money. In this rush for profit, they are creating the problem without taking responsibility for the consequences. Sackler has continued to not only shift blame but to also forcefully push his drugs to market, even at the detriment of his own employees. According to the lawsuit in Massachusetts, “Sales managers were badgered on nights, weekends and holidays. In 2011, he decided to shadow sales reps for a week to make sure his orders were followed.” The upcoming lawsuits in Oklahoma and across the United States will hopefully require the company to take responsibility and fiscal action for their harmful actions toward individuals.

Additionally, Purdue Pharma is responsible for seeking to control medical institutions in an attempt to boost its revenue stream and to protect the company from any negative statement about the powers of the drugs. The company has donated massive amounts to different institutions in Massachusetts, such as Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts University, as a way to attach themselves to medical practices and seize control of the narrative regarding their drugs. Purdue Pharma is attempting to not only to spread the sale and production of its drugs but is also causing conflicts of interest for many health care officials. While Oklahoma may not face the same issues as other states, Purdue Pharma has been involved in potentially dangerous activities in an attempt to protect their bottom line.

Through this first lawsuit, Oklahoma can take the first step in fixing the wrongs that Purdue Pharma has inflicted locally and across the United States. Victory will promote the spread of similar cases that will force Purdue Pharma and other corporations like it to explain and take responsibility for their negative actions. This lawsuit and many others will not fix the current problem of addiction, but it may slow the further spread of opioids and provide justice to those who are now caught in addiction due to the actions perpetuated by Purdue Pharma and its subsidiaries.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle