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It Makes OxyContin. Now It's Made a Deal With the Feds

Inside the $8.3B Purdue Pharma settlement
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 21, 2020 12:20 PM CDT
Inside Purdue Pharma's $8B Settlement With the Feds
This Tuesday, May 8, 2007, file photo shows the Purdue Pharma logo at its offices in Stamford, Conn.   (AP Photo/Douglas Healey, File)

(Newser) – OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges, the Justice Department said Wednesday in announcing an $8.3 billion deal that settles the federal investigation of how the company marketed opioids, Politico reports. Those charges include conspiracy to defraud the US and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The New York Times calls the deal "a significant advance in the long legal march by states, cities, and counties to compel the most prominent defendant in the opioid epidemic to help pay for the public health crisis." No company owners or execs will serve jail time, but the deal does not release any of them from future criminal prosecution in relation to the company's opioid marketing strategy. More:

  • The AP calls it the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000.
  • The statement from the Purdue board chair Steve Miller: "Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts."

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  • Among the detailed misconduct: that the company falsely represented to the DEA that it had maintained an effective program to avoid drug diversion but instead had been "disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up." Purdue is also admitting to violating federal anti-kickback laws by paying doctors, through a speaking program, to induce them to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioids.
  • The Times notes that the full $8.3 billion payment won't come to pass. Purdue is in bankruptcy court and the federal government is far from the only creditor after it. NPR reports that if a judge finalizes the deal, "it will almost certainly derail thousands of separate lawsuits against the company filed by local and state governments." However, the Wall Street Journal gets more specific, saying the company will end up paying $225 million, with the feds forgoing much of the rest in favor of remaining funds going to states, counties, and Native American tribes.
  • While the government may not get its money, it will get control of the company. NPR explains that as part of the settlement, Purdue would keep making opioids but be run as a public trust controlled by the government; profits would go to states and cities. There are plenty of critics, with 25 state attorneys general last week penning a letter to Attorney General William Barr that advised the Justice Department to "avoid having special ties to an opioid company" that "caused a national crisis"; they want to see the company sold to a private buyer.
  • One winner in all this, in Politico's view: President Trump, who is less than 2 weeks away from Election Day and focused heavily in his 2016 campaign on putting a stop to the opioid crisis.
(Read more Purdue Pharma stories.)

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