We don’t get too many wins around these parts. When it comes to sports, just making it to the playoffs is about as far as one of our teams makes it, which amounts to everyone piling on to the conceit of firing the coach and hanging him by his heels in some misguided sense of cathartic glory. And although the political tides have been swiftly turning during the last year, pulling for progressive representatives is like asking for peaches in the spring.
But yesterday, Oklahoma kinda got a win against one of the biggest corporate evils in the world right now, by reaching a settlement with Purdue Pharma, the bastards that manufactured OxyCotin. Here’s some of the details from News 9:
The maker of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin has reached a settlement with the state of Oklahoma over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis, officials said Tuesday.
Oklahoma’s attorney general held an afternoon news conference to announce details of the agreement with Purdue Pharma, which has made billions of dollars from OxyContin but has been hit with over 1,000 lawsuits filed by state and local governments trying to hold the company responsible for the scourge of addiction.
The settlement will establish a nearly $200 million endowment at Oklahoma State University’s Center for Wellness and Recovery that will go toward treating addiction. It will also provide an annual $15 million payment to the center over a 5-year period and ongoing contributions of addiction treatment medicine.
The pharmaceutical company, based in Stamford, Connecticut, and owned by the Sackler family, will pay $270 million to resolve the suit, according to reports by Reuters and the Wall Street Journal citing sources close to the matter.
Prescription opioids like OxyContin were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Purdue Pharma was one of 13 drug manufacturers named in Oklahoma’s lawsuit. The 12 remaining defendants still face trial in May. It would be the first of the current round of lawsuits brought against the industry across the U.S. to go to trial.
The most interesting part about this is the precedent it will set upon other similar cases that are pending nationwide. A PBS report lists some statistics about how prescription opioids have affected Oklahoma:
For every 100 Oklahomans, an estimated 101.7 opioid prescriptions were written in 2015, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That amounted to nearly 4 million prescriptions that year. In 2016, Oklahomans fatally overdosed on opioids at a rate of 11.6 deaths per 100,000 people — nationwide, that rate was roughly 13 deaths per 100,000 people.
We’re talking more prescriptions than residents, which would seem impossible if these drugs weren’t given out like Halloween candy. Every single person that will read this story has either suffered from opioid addiction, or known someone that has. I’ve personally lost several friends from the drug, either through overdose, or them becoming a person I can’t associate with anymore.
Oklahoma always seems like a place that will bow down to the corporate stewards that pay the bills, so it’s shocking we pursued this fight. If Purdue Pharma also drilled for crude, it’d be hard to believe that the AG would have brought this to the courts. But, we also have a massive medical industry, especially here in OKC, so it’s not a huge shocker that we chumped out for the settlement instead of taking the case all the way.
$270 million sounds like a lot of money, but when you look at the rate that opioids are prescribed and abused in Oklahoma (and the $60-million in legal fees), and consider the costs of treatment, it ain’t very much. Our state saw over 400 deaths due to opioid overdose in 2017, and numbers have been similar for the last several years. It’s impossible to put a value on life, but if we’re talking the tens of thousands who have been affected over the last decade, $270 million ain’t it, chief.
The state still has several pending lawsuits against other ghoulish pharmaceutical companies that peddle strongly addictive and destructive opioids, so the fight isn’t quite over. Let’s just hope that as the momentum builds, we don’t just bite at the first offer.
The big dart of curiosity is regarding which prominent Oklahomans are invested in Purdue Pharma. If any of you Moles can identify the locals who pumped their cash into this or any of the other companies that exist upon poisoning our ecosystem with legalized junk, let me know on Twitter.