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Company behind OxyContin to pay Kentucky $24M

| Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, 9:09 p.m.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — The maker of OxyContin will pay Kentucky $24 million over the next eight years as part of the settlement of a long-running lawsuit that accused the company of misleading the public about the addictiveness of the powerful prescription drug.

The state filed the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in 2007. The Connecticut-based company has had FDA approval since 1995 to market OxyContin, a type of opioid that can relieve pain and has qualities similar to those of the illegal drug heroin.

Kentucky officials accused Purdue Pharma of marketing the prescription painkiller as nonaddictive because it was a pill that, when swallowed, slowly released the drug over 12 hours. However, users soon discovered if they crushed the pill the drug lost its time-release qualities and created an instant high.

State officials said that led to a wave of addiction and increased medical costs across the state, particularly in eastern Kentucky, where many injured coal miners were prescribed the drug. Former Attorney General Greg Stumbo, who filed the lawsuit in 2007, said the case could be worth as much as $1 billion if it ever got in front of a jury.

Purdue Pharma replaced the drug with a new version in 2010 that deters abuse.

Outgoing Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway said in a news release the case is “still facing significant legal issues.” The state Supreme Court is considering whether Purdue Pharma missed a deadline to dispute the facts of the case. That decision, if awarded in Kentucky's favor, would greatly help the state in the case.

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