Purdue Pharma, the maker of the popular painkiller OxyContin, may soon file for bankruptcy in the face of an onslaught of lawsuits. Reuters broke the news Monday morning, citing a source that said the company may try to use bankruptcy protection laws to extricate itself from nearly 2,000 lawsuits.
The suits claim the pharmaceutical company knowingly misled both “doctors and patients” about the dangers of prescription opioids like OxyContin, and hid the addictive nature of the drugs. If Purdue Pharma files for Chapter 11, the lawsuits would be settled by a bankruptcy judge.
“As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” wrote a spokesperson for the company in a statement, according to Reuters. “We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers, and other business partners.”
The lawsuits are the result of several years of physicians over-prescribing the drugs, resulting in increased opioid addiction rates and associated deaths—often referred to as “the opioid crisis.” Opioids are a class of prescription painkillers made either naturally or synthetically from the poppy plant, and include drugs such as OxyContin, its generic form Oxycodone, fentanyl, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone, which is also known as Vicodin. Other prescription narcotics in this class are morphine and codeine, and street narcotics with similar effects are opium and heroin.