$600m in penalty rejected over opioid drug sales

Image copyright Reuters Image caption The Pharmacy Doctor’s Board has slapped Purdue Pharma with a fine of $28.5m

The UK’s highest court has rejected a $630m (£405m) settlement deal by US drug company Purdue Pharma over its role in fuelling the opioid epidemic.

Last month, the state of West Virginia’s governor sued Purdue Pharma, contending it had ignored warnings about the effects of its painkillers.

Professor James Odell, who represented Purdue Pharma, said: “They are looking at us as though we are a rapacious corporation out to make a killing out of people who are struggling with their lives.”

There were nearly 47,000 overdose deaths in 2016, making it the leading cause of death for Americans aged between 35 and 44.

In March, a state judge in Colorado struck down a similar $1bn settlement as too small. He ordered both parties to develop a more comprehensive plan.

Arctic of blame

Prof Odell said: “People actually died because this was a drug that was supplied by Purdue with such gruesome effectiveness.

“Purdue knew it had a poisonous drug on its hands. They knew, they just didn’t care.”

On Wednesday, UK courts ordered Purdue Pharma to pay £25.6m, based on the State of New Jersey’s claim that it should be held responsible for fraudulently pushing its painkillers to patients.

Prof Odell said his clients were “embarrassed” that they still had a large stake in the company.

“We could make Purdue just disappear,” he said. “We could end it tomorrow. That would be great, but it would take years and years and years of litigation.

“We would also enjoy our children’s lives better, as their lives would be a lot better without that company.”

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