One of the 13 pharmaceutical companies that were being sued by Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter reached a settlement agreement with the state.
During a press conference Tuesday in Tulsa, Hunter announced Purdue Pharma, the company that produces the opioid OxyContin, has agreed to pay about $270 million -- nearly $200 million of which will benefit the Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery in Tulsa.
"This agreement is only the first step in our ultimate goal of ending this nightmarish epidemic," Hunter said. "OSU's Center for Wellness and Recovery is already a national leader in studying and treating addiction as a brain disease and finding innovative ways to cure it. This endowment will allow the university to expand its footprint to a national level to combat the crisis."
The center will receive $102.5 million almost immediately, and then $15 million a year for five years, starting Jan. 1, 2020. It will also receive ongoing contributions of addiction treatment medicine, totaling $20 million.
OSU Center for Health Sciences President Kayse Shrum said the endowment will help the center in its mission to ending opioid abuse and addiction. The center was established in 2017.
"The mission of Oklahoma State University's Center for Wellness and Recovery is to save lives and rescue those who are struggling with addiction," she said. "This endowment will allow us to assist communities in Oklahoma and across the country that have been ravaged by the opioid epidemic with innovative approaches to addressing this health crisis. Now we will have the resources to create a place where people can come together to engage in meaningful initiatives to prevent, treat and eradicate this horrible disease."
Additionally, Oklahoma's cities and counties will share $12.5 million, and the remaining $60 million will be paid to the state's attorney for fees and litigation expenses.
Purdue CEO Dr. Craig Landau said the company is happy an agreement could be reached in combatting addiction now and in the future.
"Purdue has a long history of working to address the problem of prescription opioid abuse and diversion," he said. "We see this agreement with Oklahoma as an extension of our commitment to help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis, and we pledge Purdue's ongoing support to the National Center and the life-saving work it will do for generations to come."
As part of the agreement, Purdue said they will no longer promote opioids in Oklahoma, including employing or contracting with sales representatives to health care providers in Oklahoma.
"We appreciate that Purdue Pharma and its owners chose to work constructively with us to resolve this litigation in a way that will bring to life a new and unique national center with the goal of creating breakthrough innovations in the prevention and treatment of addiction," Hunter said.
The announcement comes a day after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled it would not postpone the May 28 trial date.
"The Supreme Court made the right decision," Hunter said Monday. "Every day that goes by, we lose more of our loved ones to overdoses or down the tragic road of addiction. The team and I are pleased by today's ruling. We appreciate the quick action taken by the court and for not rewarding the defendants with more time for a problem of their own making. We continue to prepare for trial, where we will present evidence to prove the state's case."
The request came before the state's highest court after Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman denied a motion from the drug manufacturers' attorneys for 100-day continuance in the trial on March 8.
In addition to Purdue, other defendants include Allergan, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc, and some of their subsidiaries. Settlements have not been reached involving those defendants.
"In the coming weeks, the team and I will continue preparing for the trial 24/7, where we intend to hold the other defendants in this case accountable for their role in creating the worst public health crisis our state and nation has ever seen," Hunter said.