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Oklahoma reaches $270 million settlement with opioid maker

TULSA — The state of Oklahoma will receive $270 million as a partial settlement to its lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced Tuesday.

"It is a new day in Oklahoma and for the nation in our battle against addiction and the opioid epidemic," Hunter said in announcing an agreement with Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and the Sackler family that controls the company.

The Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery in Tulsa is scheduled to receive nearly $200 million of the settlement payments, making it the biggest beneficiary. The money will be used to establish a national center on addiction modeled after the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

The OSU center has already established itself as the gold standard in treating opioid addiction and the settlement money will "expand its mission to a national level to combat the crisis," Hunter said.

The settlement resolves Purdue Pharma's issues with the state, and the company will be dropped from the lawsuit filed by the state in 2017.

“Purdue has a long history of working to address the problem of prescription opioid abuse and diversion,” said Purdue Pharma CEO Craig Landau. “We see this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis, and we pledge Purdue’s ongoing support to the National Center and the lifesaving work it will do for generations to come.”

Litigation will continue against Teva Pharmaceuticals USA Inc., Johnson & Johnson and eight other opioid manufacturers named in the Cleveland County lawsuit, officials said. The trial is scheduled to begin May 28.

Hunter did not rule out the possibility of other settlements.

"We are ready to talk," he said. "We are ready to go to trial."

The Oklahoma Supreme Court this week rejected an effort by the drugmakers to delay the trial.

Hunter said part of the impetus for the settlement stemmed from the fact that Purdue Pharma was contemplating bankruptcy "and that was a serious exercise for them."

Attorneys for the state took steps to make the settlement announced Tuesday "bankruptcy-proof," he said.

Reggie Whitten, one of the lead outside attorneys hired by Hunter's office, said critics of the settlement should consider the hope it represents for preventing and treating addiction. Whitten lost his oldest son to drug addiction in 2002.

"There's no way to bring back my son," Whitten said Tuesday. "There's no way to bring back anybody who's died from addiction. What we should do, in my humble opinion as a parent who lost a son, is look forward and try to save lives in the future, and that's what this settlement is going to do."

The OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery was established within the OSU Center for Health Sciences in November 2017 with a mission to study, treat and try to prevent addiction.

"This endowment will allow us to assist communities in Oklahoma and across the country that have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic with innovative approaches to addressing this health crisis," said Dr. Kayse Shrum, president of the OSU Center for Health Sciences.

The Center for Wellness and Recovery currently has an annual budget of about $2.4 million, Shrum said.

A foundation is expected to be created soon to receive $102.5 million of the settlement. The foundation will direct the money to the OSU Center for Health Sciences.

Then, beginning Jan. 1, 2020, the center will start receiving $15 million a year for five years, for a total of $75 million in additional payments. That money will be provided by the Sackler family, whose philanthropy has become overshadowed by its role in the nationwide opioid crisis.

The Dr. Mortimer and Dr. Raymond Sackler families issued a statement on Tuesday downplaying Purdue Pharma's role in the crisis and contending that "recent attacks on our family are not accurate and misdirect attention away from crucial issues such as the terrifying rise in illicit fentanyl overdoses."

The statement says, "While the agreement announced today is not a financial model for future settlement discussions, the establishment of the National Center is a unique and important step that we hope will save lives, by creating breakthrough innovations in the prevention and treatment of addiction, and point towards how we can achieve a national resolution."

Under the settlement, OSU is also slated to receive ongoing contributions of addiction treatment medicine valued at $20 million, officials said. That will bring the total amount that the OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery is scheduled to receive up to $197.5 million.

Cities and counties also will share in the settlement, receiving $12.5 million to abate and address the impact of the opioid epidemic.

The remaining $60 million is earmarked to help pay for the state’s attorney fees and litigation expenses.

As part of the settlement, Purdue has agreed not to promote opioids in Oklahoma, including not employing or contracting with sales representatives to promote opioids to health care providers in the state.

Related Photos
<strong>Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Listening OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum and OSU President Burns Hargis  [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World]</strong>

Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Listening OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum and OSU President Burns Hargis [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-e4b91e5e46f1e1b26e40e5cda37a680b.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Listening OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum and OSU President Burns Hargis [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] " title=" Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Listening OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum and OSU President Burns Hargis [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] "><figcaption> Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday, March 26, 2019. Listening OSU Center for Health Sciences President Dr. Kayse Shrum and OSU President Burns Hargis [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3794f5da4096602579afd257eacf6298.jpg" alt="Photo - File photo" title="File photo"><figcaption>File photo</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-n_fd05f9eabe9c8626550ac31bad110694.jpg" alt="Photo - Mike Hunter speaks about Gentner Drummond conceding in the Republican runoff for the Oklahoma Attorney General, outside of the Attorney General office Wednesday, August 29, 2018. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman" title="Mike Hunter speaks about Gentner Drummond conceding in the Republican runoff for the Oklahoma Attorney General, outside of the Attorney General office Wednesday, August 29, 2018. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman"><figcaption>Mike Hunter speaks about Gentner Drummond conceding in the Republican runoff for the Oklahoma Attorney General, outside of the Attorney General office Wednesday, August 29, 2018. Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1fc6dfc28ad160986639acb645595210.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma." title="Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma."><figcaption>Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cff58d89bb2c0729c91648be73465b48.jpg" alt="Photo - Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday. [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] " title=" Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday. [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] "><figcaption> Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma for opioid abuse in the state Tuesday. [MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-074065fcd8654d8eb674c57a41849780.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right." title="Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right."><figcaption>Dr. Kayse Shrum talks about $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery. Also pictured, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter is on the left, OSU president Burns Hargis is on the right.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-3469686278756ede0840f84b8963f11c.jpg" alt="Photo - Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma." title="Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma."><figcaption>Dr. Kayse Shrum, with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, left, and OSU President Burns Hargis, right, announces a $200 million endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-8ece704fb2cc02b8ffea805c3e6929c7.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma." title="Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma."><figcaption>Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis talks about the $200 million to establish an endowment for OSU’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, part of the state’s $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma.</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-cb7047917eeb317d095b2f507e6e89fa.jpg" alt="Photo - Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery." title="Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery."><figcaption>Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announces $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma, $200 million to establish endowment for OSU Center for Wellness and Recovery.</figcaption></figure>
Randy Ellis

For the past 30 years, staff writer Randy Ellis has exposed public corruption and government mismanagement in news articles. Ellis has investigated problems in Oklahoma's higher education institutions and wrote stories that ultimately led to two... Read more ›

Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›

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