Guiding industry settlements of opioid litigation

James G. Hodge, Lawrence O. Gostin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: The recent $270 million settlement of Purdue Pharmaceuticals and the State of Oklahoma on March 26, 2019 concerning the state’s opioid litigation is a harbinger of industry settlements to come. Thousands of opioid-related cases with impending trial dates may stimulate opioid manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to seek new deals to escape historic liability. Objectives: Against a backdrop of massive damage potential of a two decade opioid epidemic, reaching appropriate settlements is key. Parties to opioid lawsuits must balance an array of factors to assure industry accountability while preserving access to opioids among legitimate patients seeking palliative care. Methods: We examined major bases for opioid litigation across the U.S. Thousands of cases have been filed against opioid manufacturers, distributors, pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers, and others. Hundreds of these cases are consolidated in a federal district court in Cleveland, Ohio where trials are scheduled as early as October 2019. Grounds for litigation are highly varied. Results: Multiple factors underlying responsible settlements include (1) a primary focus on contemporary treatment and prevention strategies supplemented by research innovations; (2) primary access to life-saving treatments for at-risk individuals; (3) fair and equitable allocation of settlement resources; (4) dedication to lawful, efficacious interventions; (5) cross-sharing of industry data and practices to promote good faith compliance; and (6) continued assurance of access to palliative care for deserving patients. Conclusions: Negotiated settlements must align with highly effective public health priorities. Crafting wise settlement agreements is necessary to assign responsibility for huge public harms and ensure future treatments that are prudent and efficacious.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-437
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 3 2019


  • Opioids
  • lawsuits
  • liability
  • litigation
  • risks
  • settlement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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