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Summit County Opioid Lawsuit Could Be Affected By Pharmaceutical Company Filing Bankruptcy

A major national drug company, Purdue Pharma, says it is considering filing bankruptcy, which could throw a monkey wrench into hundreds of opioid lawsuits filed against it, including Summit County’s.

A spokesman for Purdue, Robert Josephson told the Associated Press in an email that they are looking into any number of options, given the amount of litigation the company faces. He wrote, “A decision has not been made to file for bankruptcy, not is there a timetable.”

Last spring, Summit County was the first to file a lawsuit in Utah against Purdue Pharma and over 20 other defendants.

In an email to KPCW, Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson wrote, “We will continue to press ahead against all named opioid manufacturers and distributors and if Purdue files Chapter 11, we will join with other counties to obtain the best possible relief with the bankruptcy court.”

With the assistance of outside counsel, the county’s 240-page suit asserts that Summit, and many other local governments, have been burdened with the costs of fighting a national opioid crisis.

The litigation said that the defendants mounted a deceptive marketing campaign, starting in the late 1990’s, promoting the use of opioids for chronic long-term pain and downplaying the risks of addiction.

Purdue has reportedly made billions selling Oxycontin, a prescription painkiller. But in court filings made in its defense, Purdue has said its products were approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors.

Several other counties in Utah filed similar suits. Last month, a Third District Court judge agreed to consolidate Summit County’s suit with the litigation filed in Salt Lake and Tooele Counties.

The Associated Press reported that a federal judge in Cleveland, who is overseeing more than 1,300 opioid cases, has been urging the parties to come to a grand settlement. The judge has scheduled a trial in October for Summit County, Ohio as well as Cuyahoga County. A lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma has a trial set for May.

Known for getting all the facts right, as well as his distinctive sign-off, Rick covered Summit County meetings and issues for 35 years on KPCW. He now heads the Friday Film Review team.
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