A federal bankruptcy judge extended the deadline to file Oxycontin-related injury claims against Purdue Pharma to July 30 because COVID-19 may have prevented some people from filing claims before the original deadline of June 30.
The deadline extension was requested by Purdue Pharma, the manufacturers of Oxycontin, as well as some governments which are suing Purdue.
Some groups argued for a three-month extension of the deadline. These arguments were rejected by Judge Robert Drain, who said every additional month would mean $700,000 would have to be spent advertising that people can file claims against Purdue. The judge, as well as some attorneys, also said that attorneys fees could hurt Purdue’s value more if the claims process goes on for more time.
Purdue is moving through the bankruptcy process in an effort to settle over 2,000 lawsuits from local and state governments over its role in America’s opioid crisis. The company faced an additional 8,000+ personal injury claims from individuals as of May 28. The lawsuits claim Purdue is partly to blame for creating America’s opioid crisis, which has led to the death of over 430,000 Americans since 2000. Purdue is currently taking part in a $22 million campaign intended to make people aware they can file claims.
One of Purdue’s lawyers said the company plans to file a reorganization plan in the fall. Purdue has proposed becoming a public trust. Its profits would be used to deal with the opioid crisis. Members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue, would give at least $3 billion to this cause over time.
Court documents demonstrate that Dr. Richard Sackler and Purdue’s ex-CEO Michael Friedman, in an email exchange, expressed the opinion that it would be a bad idea to correct the false impressions some doctors had that Oxycontin was weaker than morphine. The two thought correcting these false impressions would hurt Oxycontin’s sales.
“It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine… We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that,” Friedman wrote to Sackler.
“I agree with you,” Sackler responded.
Purdue entered a guilty plea in federal court in 2007, pleading guilty to understating the addiction risk of Oxycontin. The U.S. Department of Justice said Purdue wrongly marketed and promoted Oxycontin as less subject to abuse and diversion, less addictive and less likely to cause tolerance and withdrawal when compared to other medications.