8 Billion Dollar Purdue Settlement: Is it Really Enough?

On Wednesday, October 21st Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to violation of federal anti-kickback laws, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The full settlement agreement for the case will be disclosed in a bankruptcy filing in federal court. The charges against Purdue come from the company’s liability in the United States opioid crisis, with some experts stating that Purdue’s manufactured drug, OxyContin, was responsible for starting off the crisis of opioid addictions that has raged across this recent century.
After the launch of OxyContin in the 1990’s the company pushed aggressively for the drug to be prescribed by physicians, and began a decades-long campaign of incentivizing physicians and institutions to push their product. Purdue’s tactics violated the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits any payment or reward for patient referrals or the generation of business involving drugs. In the lawsuit resolution, Purdue also admitted to deterring the Drug Enforcement Administration by falsely claiming that it had kept up a program to avoid drug diversion (the transfer of legally prescribed drugs to another person for illegal use), when the company’s focus was instead on boosting sales quotas.
The number of opioid prescriptions like OxyContin more than doubled between 1991 to 2013, and from 2000 to 2020 more than 470,000 people died from opioid overdoses. The settlement will dissolve Purdue in order to form a public benefit company that will be used in the interest of public health, and money from the $8 billion settlement will in part go towards drug programs to combat the crisis. It’s a large step in combating a national drug-addiction crisis, but many advocates have voiced that more accountability is still needed from the individuals involved in the company’s illicit behavior, and have expressed some concern at federal involvement in the future sales of OxyContin through the public benefit company. In light of Purdue’s criminal culpability in a crisis that has cost the lives and livelihood of many, the call for justice might not easily go quiet.