As the opioid crisis in the United States has mounted, pharmaceutical manufacturers have been hit with lawsuits claiming that they used deceptive marketing tools to push the drugs to doctors and failed to advise patients about prospective risks.
Now, the once seemingly infallible pharmaceutical companies are beginning to show signs of wear and tear. After being hit with thousands of lawsuits related to the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharmaceuticals is considering filing for bankruptcy, Reuters reports. The move would allow Purdue to negotiate with plaintiffs directly in bankruptcy court.
The Stamford, Connecticut-based company, which manufactures drugs including OxyContin, is currently battling more than 1,000 lawsuits from family members of those who have died of prescription medication overdoses. Most of these lawsuits allege that Purdue aggressively marketed the drugs to health care providers and failed to educate doctors and patients about the risks.
One such lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts alleges that Purdue pushed high doses of OxyContin on doctors and patients in an effort to boost revenue. In response, Purdue has claimed that it sufficiently educated patients about the risks of taking higher doses of the drug, and that the lawsuit is essentially “oversimplified scapegoating.” The company filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit last Friday, which Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she plans to oppose.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 130 people per day die of opioid-related overdoses, including such drugs as heroin, and synthetic painkillers like OxyContin and fentanyl. Per data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 47,600 opioid overdose deaths in the United States in 2017, or more than 65% of overdose deaths in general — nearly five times higher than they were in 2009.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers like Purdue, which is owned by the enigmatic Sackler family, have been accused of playing a prominent role in exacerbating the opioid crisis, largely by encouraging doctors to prescribe drugs like OxyContin in the mid-1990s. “[The Sackler family] has earned this fortune at the expense of millions of people who are addicted. It’s shocking how they have gotten away with it,” Allen Frances, the former chair of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, said in a 2017 New Yorker profile of the Sackler family.
In a statement, a Purdue spokesperson declined to comment on whether or not the company was considering filing for bankruptcy. “It has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy. We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable,” the spokesperson said. “We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”