Fed judge orders Purdue Pharma to release sealed case records on what it knew about Oxycontin and how addictive it is

A federal judge has ordered that the maker of Oxycontin, Purdue Pharma release records in a case in which Kentucky alleged that improper marketing of the powerful painkiller fueled a widespread addiction and death. The lawsuit alleged that Purdue misrepresented how easy it is to become addicted to Oxycontin.

Purdue Pharma, agreed in December to pay the state $24 million to settle the lawsuit and the settlement agreement included a provision for many records from the legal fight to be destroyed, but some remain sealed in Pike County, where the state filed suit. Those records contain a sworn statement from Dr. Richard Sackler, a former Purdue Pharma president .

STAT, which is a Boston Globe initiative, based in Boston and reports on life sciences and medicine. STAT said in a news release that Sackler is believed to be the only member of the family questioned under oath about OxyContin marketing.

STAT sought a court order opening access to the records in a manner quite similar to what the Boston Globe did in the clergy abuse cases.

It said the documents are believed to contain new information on what Purdue Pharma executives knew about the addictive properties of OxyContin, a type of painkiller known as an opioid.

The company did not admit wrongdoing as part of the $24 million settlement.

Pike Circuit Judge Steven D. Combs on Wednesday granted STAT’s request to unseal documents in the case, saying the public’s right to the information outweighed Purdue Pharma’s objections.

The court “sees no higher value than the public (via the media) having access to these discovery materials so that the public can see the facts for themselves,” the judge wrote.

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers.