Health and Science

OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma reportedly exploring bankruptcy amid litigation over opioids

Key Points
  • The Sacklers, a billionaire family accused of igniting the nationwide opioid crisis by ruthlessly marketing and misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of OxyContin, may now be struggling to keep their business afloat.
  • Purdue is exploring filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection to address potentially significant liabilities from thousands of lawsuits alleging the drug manufacturer contributed to the opioid crisis, according to a Reuters report.
OxyContin, made by Purdue Pharma
George Frey | Reuters

OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma is exploring bankruptcy protection amid accusations of igniting a nationwide opioid crisis by ruthlessly marketing and misleading doctors and patients about the dangers of the highly addictive narcotic.

Purdue, founded in the 1950s by brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, is looking at filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect its assets against thousands of lawsuits for its role in the opioid epidemic, according to a Reuters report.

A bankruptcy filing is not certain, Reuters reported, citing anonymous sources. Purdue Pharma has not made any final decisions and could instead continue fighting the lawsuits, Reuters said.

"As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma's longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy," Purdue said in a statement. "We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. 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."

How Purdue Pharma played role in the opioid crisis

Purdue and other manufacturers face a trial in May in a case brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. Accusations against the Stamford, Connecticut-based company include downplaying the addiction risk while overstating the benefits of opioids.

They've also been accused of urging sales representatives to advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the painkiller because it was more profitable.

The company has denied any wrongdoing. They say labels for its painkiller carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with the drugs.

OxyContin is a prescription drug used to treat moderate to severe pain in adults. From 1999 to 2017, nearly 218,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses related to prescription opioids, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. OxyContin first came on the market in 1996.

In late 2017, Purdue launched an advertising campaign meant to show it is doing its part to stem the epidemic. The ads, which appeared in several national and public newspapers, emphasized that the company is a "research-driven, science-based" entity and dedicated to discovering safer new pain medications.

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