OxyContin Maker’s Bankruptcy Settlement Divides Victims of Opioid Crisis


The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments over the bankruptcy settlement of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which has sparked division among victims of the opioid crisis.

Purdue Pharma’s Settlement Plan

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has proposed a settlement plan to resolve thousands of lawsuits related to the harm caused by opioids. The plan involves relinquishing ownership of the company and allocating up to $6 billion towards addressing the opioid crisis. However, it also includes exemptions for the wealthy Sackler family from civil lawsuits, raising moral concerns and facing legal scrutiny.

Victims’ Perspectives

The proposed settlement has left victims of the opioid crisis divided. While some, like Ellen Isaacs and her lawyer Mike Quinn, believe that the Sackler family is receiving special protection, others, like Lynn Wencus, who lost her son to overdose, feel that finalizing the settlement could aid in moving forward and putting an end to the legal battles.

Impact of OxyContin Marketing

Purdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin has been linked to the widespread opioid epidemic, leading to increased prescribing of painkillers with less consideration for addiction risks. This has resulted in a surge of opioid-related overdose deaths, which continue to rise, with more than 80,000 deaths reported in recent years.

Settlement Details and Reaction

The settlement involves over $50 billion to be paid by drug companies, wholesalers, and pharmacies to resolve lawsuits related to the opioid crisis. The Purdue Pharma settlement is among the largest, with provisions for direct compensation to victims, expected to range from $3,500 to $48,000. While some see it as a pivotal moment in addressing the crisis, others remain critical, believing that no amount of money can fully compensate for the damage caused by OxyContin’s misleading marketing.

Sackler Family’s Fallout and Dispute

As a result of the fallout, the Sackler family has faced public scrutiny, resulting in the removal of their name from various institutions globally. The family’s substantial profits from OxyContin sales before the company’s bankruptcy have stirred controversy, leading to objections from the U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee and criticism from the Attorney General. The Supreme Court’s upcoming decision will have far-reaching implications for similar product liability cases settled through bankruptcy.

Legal and Political Context

The legal question surrounding the extension of bankruptcy legal shields to individuals like the Sacklers, who have not declared bankruptcy themselves, has sparked conflicting lower court decisions. The case’s evolution, from the support of the settlement during the Trump administration to the opposition under Biden’s administration, adds a political dimension to the ongoing dispute. The complexities of third-party releases in bankruptcy cases have come under scrutiny, with proponents justifying their necessity in crafting settlements.