Opioid maker to pay for overdose-antidote


Associated Press

A company whose prescription opioid marketing practices are being blamed for sparking the addiction and overdose crisis says it’s helping to fund an effort to make a lower-cost overdose antidote.

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma announced Wednesday that it’s making a $3.4 million grant to Harm Reduction Therapeutics, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit, to help develop a low-cost naloxone nasal spray.

The announcement comes as lawsuits from local governments blaming Purdue, based in Stamford, Conn., and other companies in the drug industry for using deceptive marketing practices to encourage heavy prescribing of the powerful and addictive painkillers. Last week, the number of lawsuits against the industry being overseen by a federal judge topped 1,000.

The Cleveland-based judge, Dan Polster, is pushing the industry to settle with the plaintiffs – mostly local governments and Native American tribes – and with state governments, most of which have sued in state court or are conducting a joint investigation. Hundreds of other local governments also are suing in state courts across the country.

The sides have had regular settlement discussions, but it’s not clear when a deal might be struck in the case, which is complicated by the number of parties and questions on how to assign blame.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that drug overdoses killed a record 72,000 Americans last year, about 10 percent more than in 2016. The majority of the deaths involved opioids. But a growing number of them are from illicit synthetic drugs, including fentanyl, rather than prescription opioids such as OxyContin or Vicodin.

Governments are asking for changes in how opioids are marketed, and for help paying for treatment and the costs of ambulance runs, child welfare systems, jails and other expenses associated with the opioid crisis.

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