What is Oxycontin?
Oxycontin is the brand name of oxycodone hydrochloride that is manufactured by Purdue Pharma. It is an extended-release form of the drug and was first approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration in 1995. In the early 2000s, overdose deaths began to rise from Oxycontin. The FDA issued a warning letter to Purdue Pharma in 2003 in response to misleading advertisements that the company had placed in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The advertisements left out some of the serious complications and risks that were associated with the drug. In 2010, the FDA approved a new drug formulation of Oxycontin.
How does Oxycontin work in the brain?
Oxycontin works in the brain and body by attaching to opioid receptors in the neural synapses, which are the spaces between the end of one nerve and the beginning of the next through which signals are passed. By attaching to the opioid receptors, Oxycontin disrupts pain signals to alleviate pain. This drug also triggers the body to release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that causes intense feelings of pleasure. The release of dopamine can cause people to become addicted and lead to abuse. When people are prescribed Oxycontin, they may find that they need an increasing amount to obtain the same results. People may take much more of the drug than they are prescribed or turn to alternatives that are cheaper on the street such as heroin.
Oxycontin’s role in the opioid abuse epidemic
Oxycontin played a major role in the rise of the opioid abuse epidemic. According to a report in the New York Times, a memo from the U.S. Department of Justice shows that Purdue Pharma was aware that Oxycontin was very addictive as far back as 1996 but worked to hide that fact.
In 1998, the company released a promotional video titled “I Got My Life Back” in which the company actively promoted Oxycontin as a safe, low-risk drug for treating pain. In the video, the addiction potential of the medication was minimized. The video was circulated by Purdue Pharma to doctors across the U.S., presumably to encourage them to prescribe the drug more frequently. This and other marketing tactics used by the company led to doctors overprescribing Oxycontin and other similar opioids. As a result, millions of Americans became addicted, and overdose deaths dramatically increased.
Lawsuits against Purdue Pharma
Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Purdue Pharma, alleging that the company and the Sackler family fueled the opioid crisis and maintained it through the company’s deceptive marketing practices. Some lawsuits also allege that the Sackler family, the billionaire family that started Purdue Pharma and who sit on its board, have drained money from the company to keep it out of the hands of plaintiffs.
Potential bankruptcy and its implications
Purdue Pharma is in talks to try to reach a settlement of all of the lawsuits that have been filed against it. According to the terms of the proposed settlement, Purdue Pharma would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and the company would be turned into a for-profit public trust company to manage the distribution of the settlement funds. Between $10 and $12 billion would be used to settle the claims, and $4 billion of that amount would be used to provide antidote drugs to the various governmental bodies that are suing Purdue Pharma.
While it is not clear if the proposed settlement will be accepted, likely, Purdue Pharma and other similarly situated drug makers may file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to reorganize their debts, including claims that are filed against them. If this happens, claims that are filed will likely go into the bankruptcy case, and new claims may potentially be presented in bankruptcy courts. The Oxycontin attorneys at Lamber Goodnow, and our co-counsel firms, may be able to file notices of claims with the bankruptcy court if Purdue Pharma files a petition for bankruptcy. Claims that are litigated in the bankruptcy court often move faster than they do in civil court. Even in situations in which a company like Purdue Pharma has not yet filed for bankruptcy, opioid attorneys can still handle potential bankruptcy issues that might arise to help streamline the process should a bankruptcy occur.
Q: Will Purdue declare bankruptcy?
A: As reported by Reuters on Aug. 27, 2019, Purdue Pharma is in discussions with multiple plaintiffs and state attorney generals to try to reach a settlement of the more than 2,000 lawsuits that have been filed against the company.  The proposed settlement would reportedly include the company dedicated between $10 and $12 billion to settle all of the lawsuits against it. The potential settlement would involve the company filing for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. The claims against it would then be handled by the bankruptcy court with the proceeds being distributed by the trustee to the claimants.
While the proposed bankruptcy may be imminent, it is not guaranteed to happen. Some state attorney generals are against the proposed settlement and have indicated that Purdue Pharma should not be allowed to reorganize under Chapter 11. For example, the Connecticut Attorney General, William Tong, has stated that Purdue Pharma should be liquidated and have all of its assets sold to satisfy the lawsuits against it instead of being allowed to reorganize. Similarly, Letitia James, the New York Attorney General, has alleged that the Sackler family has clawed back profits from Purdue Pharma to reduce the money that is available to pay the claims that have been filed against it. New York has issued subpoenas for the bank records of the Sackler family to look at whether any transfers from Purdue to the family members have been improper.
While there is no guarantee that Purdue Pharma will file for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11, a bankruptcy petition may still be imminent. If a bankruptcy does occur, some claimants are still able to submit claims through the bankruptcy court if the company does file for bankruptcy protection and reorganization.
Q: What happens if Purdue declares bankruptcy?
A: If Purdue Pharma files for bankruptcy, the bankruptcy court will issue an automatic stay. This is an injunction to all of the creditors that prohibits them from engaging in further collection activities while the bankruptcy case is pending. What this means for claimants against Purdue Pharma is their cases would be frozen. Plaintiffs with viable claims might be able to pursue them in the bankruptcy court as unsecured creditors.
Freezing pending litigation is meant to allow companies that have filed for bankruptcy to preserve their value while the claims against them are negotiated. The bankruptcy court determines the amounts that each plaintiff should receive out of the bankruptcy estate. Pursuing claims through the bankruptcy process can sometimes be faster than the traditional civil claims process. Potential claimants against Purdue Pharma for Oxycontin should contact an attorney like the lawyers at the Lamber Goodnow legal team, and our co-counsel firms, as soon as possible to get free case evaluations. This is important because the bankruptcy court has strict deadlines for when claims must be filed in bankruptcy court. If these dates are not met, the claims can be time-barred.
Q: How would a bankruptcy case by Purdue Pharma work?
A: If Purdue Pharma could file for a reorganization bankruptcy under Chapter 11 or a liquidation bankruptcy under Chapter 7. A Chapter 11 bankruptcy would allow the company to restructure its debt, which would include the lawsuits that have been filed against it. If the company was forced to file a liquidation bankruptcy under Chapter 7, all of its assets would be liquidated, and the proceeds would be distributed by the U.S. Trustee to Purdue Pharma’s creditors.
Creditors in bankruptcy cases can either be secured or unsecured. The secured creditors have priority and are paid first. The unsecured creditors include parties with claims that are not secured by any assets. Under the Federal Rules of Banking Procedure Rule 3003(c)(2), creditors that are not listed in the company’s schedules would be required to file notices of claims with the bankruptcy court. The court would establish the deadline for the notices to be filed, making it important for claimants to make sure that their claims are filed on time with the court. The U.S. Trustee would monitor the company and ensure that the claimants received the percentage of the proceeds that they are determined to be entitled to receive.
Q: What types of injuries are associated with the use of Oxycontin?
A: Oxycontin abuse can cause multiple injuries, including the following:
- Fall-related injuries
- Depressed respirations
- Swelling of the throat, which can result in death
- Circulatory collapse
Q: Can wrongful death claims arise from the use of Oxycontin?
A: Oxycontin overdoses can result in grounds for filing wrongful death claims against Purdue Pharma. These claims may be filed against Purdue Pharma based on, among other things, its deceptive and aggressive marketing tactics or against the distributors of the drugs such as pharmacies for failing to notify the government when they receive prescriptions for excessive quantities of Oxycontin and other similar narcotic medications.
Talk to the Oxycontin attorneys at Lamber Goodnow
The Oxycontin lawyers at the Lamber Goodnow team and our co-counsel firms understand the serious harms that can be caused by Oxycontin addiction and are dedicated to helping plaintiffs to hold Purdue Pharma accountable for its actions. Our attorneys have spent their careers advocating for victims. People that have suffered harm as a result of Oxycontin and Purdue Pharma’s conduct can schedule free case evaluations with the Lamber Goodnow team to learn more about their potential rights.