Purdue eyes bankruptcy filing to cope with mounting opioid accusations: Reuters

Purdue Pharma may seek bankruptcy protection as it faces amassing opioid litigation. (Pixabay)

Purdue Pharma may file for bankruptcy to get out from under thousands of lawsuits blaming the opioid maker and its aggressive marketing for the addiction crisis, Reuters reported Monday.

The drugmaker is battling a weight of litigation, including state claims that target its executives and founding family, claiming it misled doctors and patients and marketed its painkillers too aggressively, helping to create a nationwide opioid crisis. Now, the company is exploring bankruptcy as a way to cope with the amassing litigation, Reuters reports

A bankruptcy filing would halt proceedings in the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate with plaintiffs under the watch of a bankruptcy judge, the news service reports, citing people familiar with the deliberations. The company could decide not to pursue bankruptcy and continue fighting the lawsuits, according to the publication.

If Purdue does seek bankruptcy, it wouldn’t be alone in pursuing the strategy. Several subsidiaries of Johnson & Johnson’s talc supplier Imerys recently did the same thing as those companies face mounting litigation over the safety of their talc. All of the companies deny allegations against them.

Reuters’ reporting on Purdue came as the company hit back at Massachusetts' lawsuit over its opioid marketing. In a 46-page filing arguing for dismissal, Purdue says the state misrepresents internal statements and facts about its opioid marketing to spin a “misleading narrative in an attempt to litigate this case in the court of public opinion.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey may have been successful at winning publicity, the company argues, but that doesn't mean the state's legal claims stand up. The suit is "replete with sensational and inflammatory allegations, but utterly neglects to meet its burden to allege legally viable claims," the company's filing states. 

Overall, the allegations amount to "oversimplified scapegoating" amid an addiction crisis with roots far more complex, the document states. Healey's lawsuit was the first brought by a state with claims against current and former Purdue leadership, plus wealthy members of the Sackler family.

RELATED: Massachusetts lawsuit names Purdue CEOs, Sackler family for alleged role in opioid epidemic 

Healey filed her lawsuit back in June, naming not only the company and current and former executives and managers, but also members of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded the company. The suit aims to link the deaths of 671 Massachusetts residents to their actions. Many of the documents were filed under seal.

In January, though, the documents were opened to public scrutiny, and since then, internal company emails and other documents have hit the media, drawing a picture of a company, its owners and managers aggressively marketing drugs they knew could be dangerously addictive. 

RELATED: Sackler family directed—and covered up—Purdue's opioid sales tactics. Now, it should pay the price: AG 

The lawsuit alleges the company deceived doctors and patients to get more people on its opioid painkillers, including OxyContin, by downplaying the risks and overstating benefits. Members of the Sackler family directed the company’s marketing strategy for opioids and worked to cover their tracks, the lawsuit claims.

Purdue argued that its marketing was consistent with the FDA's official labeling on its drugs. And Massachusetts still covers Purdue’s drugs as “brand preferred” in state programs, the company's new filing contended.

Healey's lawsuit asks the court to prohibit the defendants from future similar conduct, plus disgorge ill-gotten payments, pay restitution to victims, pay civil penalties and more. 

Aside from the Massachusetts suit, Purdue faces thousands brought by other plaintiffs making claims of aggressive opioid marketing.