Opioid maker to pay $8.3B for US felonies: more charges possible

The Justice Department announced October 21 it reached an $8.3 billion settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, as a result of criminal and civil investigation by federal prosecutors into the company’s marketing of opioid painkillers.

Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to three felony counts for defrauding the United States and violating the anti-kickback statute from 2009 to 2017 in what the Justice Department said was “the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.”

The $8.3 billion global settlement includes a criminal fine of $3.544 billion, criminal forfeiture of $2 billion and a civil settlement of $2.8 billion.

Federal prosecutors alleged the company, which manufactured millions of opioid pills during the height of the epidemic, paid two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program and all electronic health records company to drive up prescriptions for its opioid products, including its top seller OxyContin.

“The kickback effectively put Purdue marketing department in the exam room with their thumb on the scale at precisely the moment doctors were making critical decisions about patient health,” District of Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan said at the Justice Department briefing.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” said Steve Miller, who has headed the company’s board since July 2018.

The criminal please does not preclude the potential for criminal charges in the future against any executive or member of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.

The $8 billion figure is largely symbolic — the bankrupt drugmaker is already indebted to states, communities and other creditors. The company is among several drugmakers and distributors embroiled in litigation over the deaths and economic devastation inflicted by the opioid epidemic.

In the past two decades, more than 400,000 Americana, many in West Virginia, have died from opioid overdoses.

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in September 2019, ass it faced thousands of civil lawsuits brought by states, counties, and cities across the country, including in West Virginia.