Spotlight: Opioid Abuse

Fighting the Opioid Epidemic

Opioid abuse in Oregon is not limited to just street drugs like heroin, or prescription drugs. Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, is emerging as a new threat–and unfortunately no Oregon community has been spared from its dark reality.

Despite some progress in reducing opioid misuse and overdose, many challenges still remain.  The Oregon Health Authority now estimates » that five Oregonians die every week from opioid related overdoses. In 2020, 462 Oregonians died from unintentional opioid overdoses, up from 280 deaths in 2019. This is a decades-long tragedy that has been fueled by the opioid industry, including consultants, manufacturers, distributors, and others.

Attorney General Rosenblum and the Oregon Department of Justice have led the way in holding those who are responsible for the opioid crisis accountable. For over 15 years, DOJ’s legal team has been a leader in major multi-state litigation and settlements that involve the pharmaceutical industry.

History of Opioid Litigation

Purdue Pharma

In 2007, Oregon and 25 other states settled the first multi-state lawsuit with Purdue Pharma. In 2018, Oregon again sued Purdue for violating the 2007 agreement, deceptively marketing OxyContin to Oregon seniors and misrepresenting the risks of the drug.

In May 2019, Oregon became one of the first states to sue the owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family. AG Rosenblum alleged that when it became apparent that Purdue would be crushed under the weight of its opioid liability, Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family fraudulently transferred billions of dollars from Purdue to accounts under the control of the family. AG Rosenblum subsequently sued the Sackler family once again in October 2019, alleging that they were personally responsible for the deceptive and unlawful promotion of OxyContin.

Purdue has since filed bankruptcy, and as part of the bankruptcy plan in addition to whatever value remains in Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family has offered to pay $4.3 billion over nine years. The money will go to a large group of states (including Oregon), municipalities and private plaintiffs, which have sued or have claims against the company. Oregon was one of 8 states to object to that plan as insufficient.

In March 2022, Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced a major settlement with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family that will deliver up to $6 billion nationally for their role in the opioid epidemic. Oregon will receive up to $97 million in the settlement, all of which will be used for opioid treatment and prevention.

Read press release: Oregon Secures $426 Million in Two Historic Opioid Settlements

Insys Theraputics

In 2015, Oregon was the first state to investigate and settle with Insys Theraputics for its unlawful promotion of Subsys, a powerful narcotic fentanyl that is typically only used for end-stage cancer pain. Oregon settled with the company for $1.1 million, with the money going to increase the availability of naloxone (used to reverse overdose), treat opioid use disorder, and train prescribers to decrease prescribing of prescription opioids.

Read press release: AG Rosenblum Settles with Pharmaceutical Company Insys over Unlawful Promotion of the Powerful Opioid Subsys®

Endo International

In 2016, Oregon opened an investigation into Endo International, a pharmaceutical company that sold Opana, an extended-release opioid like OxyContin. Eventually Oregon sued Endo for aggressively promoting the dangerous drug, which is no longer on the market.

Read press release: Oregon Sues Opioid Manufacturer Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc.

Opioid Distributors, Manufacturers and Johnson & Johnson

In 2021, Attorney General Rosenblum announced a $26 billion multistate settlement with the three largest national distributors of opioid drugs and with drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Oregon could ultimately receive up to $329 million from this settlement over the next 18 years, with the money going directly to addressing treatment and prevention of substance use disorder throughout the state.

Read press release: Statement from Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum on the Announcement of a Global Opioid Settlement with J&J and the Big Three Distributors

McKinsey & Company

Oregon was also a leader in the multi-state group that settled with McKinsey & Company, one of the world’s largest consulting firms, for its role assisting opioid manufacturers in promoting opioids. In February 2021, the group, including Oregon, settled for $573 million, with Oregon receiving almost $8 million.

Read press release: AG Rosenblum Announces $573 Million National Settlement Against McKinsey & Company for “Turbocharging” the Opioid Epidemic; Oregon’s Share is $7.8 million

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