Purdue Pharma kicks off opioid settlement talks as marketing scrutiny intensifies: Bloomberg

Facing a rash of lawsuits claiming aggressive opioid marketing led to a nationwide epidemic, Purdue Pharma is initiating settlement talks, according to Bloomberg. 

The privately held company, which makes Oxycontin and faces legal heat along with other prominent opioid drugmakers, is proposing a global settlement, four sources told the news service. The company didn't immediately respond to a FiercePharma inquiry. 

Along with Endo International, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen, Teva Pharmaceutical and Allergan, Purdue Pharma is named in an opioid marketing investigation by attorneys general from 39 states. The effort initially focused on Purdue, but investigators expanded their probe in September, homing in on some other big names in the pharmaceutical business. 

In unveiling the broadened probe, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said officials are open to settlement talks. 

"We have encouraged, and will continue to encourage, the pharmaceutical industry—both manufacturers and distributors—to engage constructively with the attorneys general towards meaningful agreements that may be achievable sooner than full scale investigations and litigation may permit," he said in a statement. 

"As we have shown in other contexts, broad coalitions of attorneys general can effectively impact national problems through litigation or settlements, often more effectively than they can when acting alone," Jepsen said in a statement. 

If the sides come to an agreement, settlement funds could help states cope with the devastating opioid epidemic that has intensified in recent years. Top drug distributors AmerisourceBergen, McKesson and Cardinal Health are also involved in the investigation. 

In addition to that effort, more than a dozen states and 100 counties have already filed lawsuits against opioid companies alleging their marketing played a role in the devastating opioid epidemic, according to Bloomberg. Officials contend the companies talked up the benefits of opioid treatment for pain patients and downplayed the risks. 

The wave of opioid cases by state and local governments resembles the legal strategy leading up to the landmark Big Tobacco settlement in 1998 worth $246 billion, according to Bloomberg. 

As it's navigating the issue, the news service reports that Purdue has brought on veteran mass tort attorney Sheila Birnbaum, a prominent corporate defender in important and complex cases. 

As industry watchers know, the company is no stranger to scrutiny on OxyContin. Among the states suing the company are New Hampshire and Ohio, and New Hampshire's attorney general previously blasted the company for stonewalling his efforts.