Purdue Pharma, Sackler family opioid settlement is bad: Judge Napolitano

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the powerful opioid OxyContin, and its owners, the Sackler family, settled a case brought by the Oklahoma attorney general in an opioid lawsuit.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter filed the lawsuit two years ago accusing Purdue of allegedly using deceptive practices to sell opioids leading to thousands of overdoses, addictions and deaths.

The drugmaker on Tuesday agreed to pay $270 million to the state of Oklahoma to fund additional research and treatment at Oklahoma State University.

However, Fox News senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano said the settlement is unfortunate because the University of Oklahoma is not going to treat anyone that has been plagued with an opioid addition.

“The government is the least efficient mechanism on the planet for distributing money to help people get better,” he said during an appearance on FOX Business’ “Mornings with Maria.” “It would have been far better if this had been a class action or some other group of people who were actually harmed by opioids. The state of Oklahoma wasn’t harmed at all, now they have all this cash.”

This is the first of more than 1,600 lawsuits pending against Purdue and also the tip of the iceberg, according to Judge Napolitano.

“You will also see just like with the tobacco litigation many, many state attorneys general because they want that cash,” he said. "The state attorneys general see this as an opportunity to bring money into that government.”

The leading lawsuit filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy alleges individual members of the Sackler family and other company executives aggressively promoted the drug, rewarded highly prescribing doctors and misled patients over its dangers and blamed users for becoming addicted.

The Sackler family, which is estimated to be worth $13 billion according to Forbes, will also contribute $75 million over 5 years to the new center to study addiction. They said the lawsuits didn’t add up because all of the literature, promotional materials and the product was approved by the FDA.  According to Judge Napolitano, the “crux” of the lawsuit is that the state of Oklahoma is standing in place of residents who did not have the thoughtfulness to read the literature.

“Obviously something went wrong. The opioid crisis... is a very, very serious problem,” said Judge Napolitano. “But when the federal government, which has coopted the field, the states have very little regulatory authority here other than things like price and delivery routes, and has said you can use this literature and you can promote this product and by the way we approve the product, it’s very difficult to sue under those circumstances.”


Judge Napolitano also said that the FDA may be culpable, but is immune.

“[FDA] can be sued for authorizing or licensing a product that turns out to be harmful,” he said. “Why? Because the Congress has made it immune.”