Kentucky lawsuit over marketing of the opioid painkiller OxyContin may cost Purdue Pharma $1 billion in damages

by Jim Orr

A lawsuit filed in 2007 more than seven years ago by the state of Kentucky against the manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin may finally be approaching a resolution. After lingering for more than seven years in state and federal court, the Kentucky lawsuit against Perdue Pharma is finally moving forward in state court towards what legal experts are predicting could be more than $1 billion in damages.

Kentucky’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma alleges that the drugmaker aggressively marketed OxyContin to doctors and medical professionals while misrepresenting the addiction risks of the drug. As sales of OxyContin skyrocketed from $45 million in 1996 to more than $3.1 billion by 2010, so too did cases of addiction and overdose linked to the powerful painkiller. In recent years, the number of fatal overdoses linked to OxyContin has surpassed the number of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined. This increase in fatalities has also carried with it an increase in the number of cases of addiction and dependence linked to OxyContin. Kentucky was one of the hardest hit states in the country by this increase in OxyContin cases, and the state’s government and health care industry bore much of the cost of managing this epidemic of OxyContin abuse.

Kentucky was included in a 2007 settlement between the U.S. government and Purdue Pharma in which the company and its executives pleaded guilty to misleading doctors and patients about the addiction risk of OxyContin and for misbranding the drug as “abuse resistant”. Although Purdue was forced to pay more than $600 million in fines as part of this settlement, the state of Kentucky was offered only about half a million dollars, despite the extraordinary costs borne by the state due to the impact of OxyContin.

Rather than accept this settlement, Kentucky filed a civil lawsuit against Purdue alleging 12 separate claims against the company over its marketing of OxyContin, including false advertising, Medicaid fraud, unjust enrichment, and punitive damages. The state’s lawsuit was transferred between various appellate courts before finally being transferred back to a Kentucky state court earlier this year. Although Purdue has sought to delay the preliminary stages of the trial, earlier this year, a judge ruled that the lawsuit should move forward, paving the way for Kentucky to recover damages for the costs that OxyContin addiction and overdose has leveled on the state.

OxyContin and the Epidemic of Opioid Overprescription

The alarming number of overdoses and deaths linked to OxyContin is part of a growing trend of addiction and abuse caused by opioid painkillers. According to data from the CDC, more than 16,000 Americans are killed each year by poisoning or overdose caused by prescription painkillers such as fentanyl, methadone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone—more than twice as many deaths as a decade before.

Two of the key factors in this rise in opioid overdose deaths has been the aggressive marketing of these medications by the pharmaceutical industry and the willingness of doctors to prescribe opioids to their patients. Improper opioid prescription practices by a doctor can place the health and even the life of their patients at risk.

In some cases, doctors may prescribe powerful opioid painkillers when they are unnecessary to manage pain. Patient can also be treated with prescription painkillers for longer than necessary or at higher doses than are required to manage pain. Patients with preexisting conditions such as sleep apnea or pulmonary problems, or who are already taking medications that lower the body’s central nervous system response, may also face an increased overdose risk because of the way that opioids can interact with these conditions or medications.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson and Opioid Painkiller Lawsuits

Patients who have been the victim of addiction or overdose due to opioid painkiller prescriptionss may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the drug, or the doctor or hospital who prescribed the medication. The first step in filing a lawsuit is to secure the help of an experienced attorney who can help to guide you through your case.

The lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson have tried more cases to verdict and settled more lawsuits involving the fentanyl pain patch than all other law firms in the country combined. Our attorneys are among the nation’s leaders in handling cases involving potent opioid painkillers. Our firm has both the training and experience to prosecute medical malpractice cases involving a wide array of serious opioid painkillers, including Vicodin and hydrocodone, OxyContin and oxycodone, methadone, hydromorphone, and others.

The attorneys at Heygood, Orr & Pearson are trial attorneys in the truest sense and have tried hundreds of cases to verdict. Our partners Michael Heygood, Jim Orr, and Eric Pearson are all board certified* and have been voted by their peers as Super Lawyers in the state of Texas for several years in a row.** Heygood, Orr & Pearson is AV-rated, the highest legal and ethical rating available from the leading law firm rating service.

For a free legal consultation about your cases and to find out more about filing a lawsuit, please call our toll-free hotline at 1-877-446-9001. You can also reach us by following the link to our free case evaluation form on this website and answering a few short questions about your case.


* Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson are all Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

** Michael Heygood, James Craig Orr, Jr. and Eric Pearson were selected to the Super Lawyers List, a Thomson Reuters publication, for the years 2003 through 2015.

by Jim Orr

Jim Orr is a licensed attorney and a partner at HO&P focusing on business and personal injury litigation. Jim was selected multiple times to the Super Lawyers List and has tried 70+ cases to verdict.