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Opioids are much in the news these days, and one of those is a bestseller called OxyContin, a painkiller that pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma LP manufactures and sells.

The state of Kentucky brought a civil suit against the company. Here are the reasons behind the court action and how the parties eventually settled the case.

OxyContin defined

This is a powerful prescription painkiller that, once taken, distributes its contents on a timed-release basis over a period of 12 hours. A good selling point has been that people needed to take fewer pills daily compared to other types of pain medication. However, addicts found that they could crush the pills and snort or inject the drug for an immediate high.

Prescription drug abuse in coal country

Kentucky accused the pharmaceutical company of responsibility in creating addiction on a large scale, especially in the eastern part of the state. Health care providers prescribed the drug for many injured Kentucky coal miners, and addiction plus high medical costs became major issues.

The legal case was based on the contention that Purdue Pharma salespeople misled doctors and other health professionals by convincing them that it was difficult to abuse OxyContin and that it was not as addictive as other opioids. The state went on to accuse the pharmaceutical company of hiding information about the dangers of the drug. The 12 charges included false advertising and Medicaid fraud.

How it ended

Kentucky legal action against Purdue Pharma began in 2007, and it appeared to be an uphill battle: The multibillion-dollar company had been successful in obtaining dismissals for hundreds of personal injury lawsuits and defeating many class-action efforts. Nevertheless, in 2015, Purdue Pharma settled, agreeing to pay $24 million to the state of Kentucky over the course of eight years.

New rules

The legal community has found that it is not uncommon for pharmaceutical companies to keep mum about the possible side effects of the prescription drugs they manufacture. Legislators are establishing new regulations for both the distribution of opioids through pharmacies and the patients for whom they are prescribed, who may not realize just how dangerous drugs like OxyContin can be.