States Receive First Payments from OxyContin Manufacturer
By Gerri Elder
A number of states are finally getting the compensation they won from Purdue Pharma, the makers of the defective drug OxyContin, in a federal judgment for a total amount of $634.5 million. For every state, however, the damage to consumers has been done.
In May, Purdue Pharma executives offered plea agreements in which they admitted to knowingly misrepresenting the addictive effects of OxyContin to physicians and patients in advertising campaigns for the narcotic painkiller. Three former and current officials participated in the plea agreement, which resulted in both a civil settlement and a federal prosecution settlement directed to 46 states participating in the lawsuit.
The first payments were reported as having been paid very recently, and local news reports will no doubt continue reporting the progress of the financial restitution as payments are sent to individual states.
Reports on the first days of the payments came from Massachusetts, awarded $8 million, Missouri, $2.5 million, and New York, $7.26 million. Many other news outlets are publishing editorials or recap reports of the amounts they are expecting in anticipation of the payment check arrival to their state attorney general.
Much of the award money goes to state Medicaid programs, which funded prescriptions for OxyContin and were misled by Purdue's claims. Portions of the Medicaid payments are returned to the federal government as reimbursement for their contribution to the state Medicaid fund. In the state of Missouri, for example, the total award for compensation was around $5.8 million, roughly $3.3 million of which was returned to the federal government, leaving the state of Missouri with $2.5 million.
Some award money is earmarked for education, awareness and other volunteer programs for consumers and those addicted to oxycodone. States like Massachusetts have publicly announced grant opportunities for individuals and organizations who wish to establish these programs.
OxyContin is a time-release version of the drug oxycodone, an opiate alkaloid that is a minor component of opium. When combined with acetaminophen, oxycodone becomes the painkiller Percocet, often used for post-operation pain relief.
However, unlike Percocet, whose acetaminophen content lessens the effects of the oxycodone component, OxyContin contains only filler and therefore can be crushed and introduced into the body intravenously or in other ways to receive its effects rapidly. When OxyContin was introduced on to the market, abuse of the drug rose rapidly despite Purdue's claims to the contrary on packaging and in physician training workshops.
Since its effects are similar to those of morphine and heroin, it quickly became an alternative for addicts to these drugs, and reports of OxyContin turning up in robberies and drug raids, especially in the Eastern United States, became more common.
A four-year-long government investigation resulted in the report that the company willingly misled consumers on the addictive effects of the drug. Sales managers for Purdue were taught that the "high" caused by the drug was less drastic and the drug had less potential for abuse and withdrawal problems that it actually had. Also, the company recommended that OxyContin, a 12-hour time release drug, be prescribed to be used every 8 hours, in violation with dosage approved by the FDA.
In the plea agreement mentioned above, President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Friedman, Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer Howard Udell, and former Executive Vice President of Worldwide Medical Affairs Paul D. Goldenheim pleaded guilty to felony charges of purposely "misbranding" OxyContin.
In addition to the $634.5 million, which includes civil liability payments and federal fines, Purdue agreed to pay $19.5 million to 26 states and the District of Columbia for promotional practices.
Drug companies are making headlines lately for defective products as well. Ongoing lawsuits in the Vioxx case have been reported nationally, as well as the recent decision of a judge in New Jersey to strike down a class-action suit filed by a workers' union health plan.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a drug company's defective product or misleading promotional information or usage instructions, you may never be able to recover fully and restore your life back to normal. However, you may be entitled to financial compensation that will help you sort out some of the nightmare caused when medication has caused damage in your life. A personal injury attorney can help explain to you if you might be eligible for compensation, and how to go about seeking this restitution under your legal rights