Purdue Pharma confirms opioid settlement talks

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma confirmed with FOX59 Tuesday that it is in discussion to settle lawsuits against the company.

The following statement was sent to the newsroom around 5 p.m.:

“While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals. The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”

We spoke with Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill about the status of Indiana's lawsuit against Purdue Pharma earlier Tuesday, before Purdue Pharma’s announcement. At that point, Hill didn’t think this case was ending anytime soon.

He said Oklahoma’s recent $572 million judgement against Johnson and Johnson was encouraging.

“When you see a trial that takes place over several weeks with complex evidentiary issues going through that process and it results in a significant on behalf of the state, that bodes well for those who have similar lawsuits across the country,” said Hill.

Indiana’s lawsuit said opioid prescription rates were so high in 2012 that on average there were 112 opioid prescriptions for every 100 residents in Indiana. Though that number has declined since then, the lawsuit said the prescription rates are still dangerously high.

The lawsuit went on to claim Purdue Pharma bears substantial responsibility for causing the state’s opioid crisis, and it must bear substantial responsibility to help fix it.

FOX59 has reached out to Hill's office since Purdue Pharma's announcement to see if Indiana is involved in these settlement discussions and have yet to hear back.

Those on the ground floor in recovery centers see the day-to-day pains that big pharmaceutical executives may not see, but not all blame the companies as the primary source for the epidemic.

“I can never blame a 'bad thing' happening over one incident," said Tobyn Linton with Landmark Recovery in Carmel, "It doesn’t happen overnight. There are several factors that go into someone picking up a substance, even for the first time."

Landmark Recovery just opened its doors on August 16 and saw their first few patients this past week. Typically, patients stay an average of 35 days at the full-service facility. Those seeking treatment can reach the facility at 866-504-8545.

“It's setting a treatment goal and making small incremental steps day-by-day to help people in that direction," Linton said.

Indiana University law professor Nicolas Terry would like to see the settlement money go to recovery centers like Landmark. He believes that opioid addiction should be treated as a chronic illness, not with criminalization.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that there was some serious misbehavior," Terry said of the pharmaceutical companies. “The list of bad actors is not short. I've never really seen a damage award change the conduct of a pharmaceutical company."

Forbes reports that Purdue Pharma is willing to pay $10 to $12 billion to settle their more than 2,000 cases across the country. Terry believes that's a lowball number and said he expects the grand total of settlement money from all the companies combined to reach close to $100 to $150 billion.

"I think we are still years away from a full settlement," Terry said.

While he admitted the settlements may not change behavior, he believes there could be federal prosecution against individual executives from pharmaceutical companies and distributors. Those cases, he thinks, could influence change.

“I think that may be the other shoe that will fall," Terry said.

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