A tough pill to swallow

Purdue Pharma declares bankruptcy while BC files lawsuit

By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter


2019 has been a historically bad year for Purdue Pharma.

Last week the pharmaceutical company filed for bankruptcy in New York, the founding state of the company.

The bankruptcy settles over 2000 pending lawsuits from various municipal, state, and Native American governments alleging that the company’s business practices started and fueled the current opioid crisis.

According to a statement found on Purdue’s American website, the “court-supervised process is intended to, among other things, facilitate an orderly and equitable resolution of all claims against Purdue, while preserving the value of Purdue’s assets for the benefit of those impacted by the opioid crisis.”

The company also alleges that the settlements made will contribute $10 billion dollars to provide “[…]critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis.” However, no details on how the monetary settlement would be dispersed, or how the funds will address the opioid crisis, were found on the corporate website.

Although bankruptcy will dissolve Purdue Pharma; from its ashes a new company, called NewCo, will rise.

Founded in 1892 by two medical doctors, Purdue Pharmaceuticals L.P. was managed by a Board of Directors featuring eight members of the Sackler family. The company came to prominence through the creation of OxyContin (generic name: Oxycodone) an opioid medication marketed to treat pain. At its peak in 2011, OxyContin was the 19th most prescribed medication in the US, based on US National Sales data, only outpaced by various insulin therapies, asthma inhalers, and cholesterol lowering drugs.

Regardless of the drug’s sales ranking, the demand for the drug in unregulated venues was much higher.

The United States Justice department claims that Purdue and its Board understood and underplayed the potency of their medication while aggressively marketing the drug to doctors in the background of the growing opioid crisis.

Closer to home, several provinces, including BC, have decided to hold the soon-to-be defunct company liable for monetary damages to provincial healthcare systems by naming the Sackler family in pending lawsuits.

British Columbia is attempting to sue the Sacklers and other pharmaceutical companies in a not yet certified class-action, which if approved, will include all Canadian provinces and territories.

In early June, Minister of Health The Honorable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, expressed concerns over Purdue’s involvement in a letter addressed to the company. The letter sparked a response from the company on June 27 stating that the Canadian arm of the company had “suspended all promotional and advertising activities relating to prescription opioids [in Canada],” and was awaiting implementations of new regulations from the federal government.