Vermont to take legal action against opioid makers

Oklahoma officials to announce settlement in opioid case

The settlement with the Oklahoma attorney general, Mike Hunter, came just weeks before Purdue, owned by members of the wealthy Sackler family, faced the first trial stemming from about 2,000 lawsuits nationally against opioid manufacturers.

More than 1,400 federal lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies have been consolidated in front of a single judge in Cleveland who is pushing the drugmakers and distributors to reach a nationwide settlement with state and local governments.

Almost 400,000 people in the United States died of opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a record 47,600 in 2017.

"The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger", Hunter said. State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahomans have died from opioids than in vehicle crashes. Purdue has argued that U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with them.

Purdue's recent acknowledgment that it is considering bankruptcy as an option could influence strategy in those lawsuits; Oklahoma's settlement ensures it will receive at least some compensation for its claims.

"It is going to save countless lives, and it's going to keep families together", Hunter said at a news conference.

Sandy Coats, an attorney for Purdue Pharma, did not return a call seeking comment. She had been organizing a group of hundreds of mothers to go to the first day of the trial and stand outside with photos of their dead children.

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A settlement is "a huge disservice to the tens of thousands of families here in the United States who buried a child", she said.

On Monday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected the drugmakers' appeal to delay the trial for 100 days. The reported $270 million settlement compares with Purdue Pharma's $35 billion OxyContin sales revenue stream between 1995 and 2015. Those lawsuits now threaten to push Purdue Pharma into bankruptcy.

Employees of the center have a goal of becoming a national hub for addiction research and treatment and the settlement should help them accomplish that goal, officials said.

Then, beginning January 1, 2020, the center will start receiving $15 million a year for five years, for a total of $75 million in additional payments. Purdue also will provide $20 million worth of treatment drugs, will pay $12 million to cities and towns, and will cover about $60 million in pay to private attorneys from two law firms that have represented Oklahoma in the case.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter sued the three drug companies in June 2017, and the two sides have been taking depositions and jousting over pretrial issues for almost two years.

A lawyer suing Purdue on behalf of local governments across the country welcomed the settlement.

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