Tulsa's OSU Center for Health Sciences could become national leader in addiction research with $270

Attorney General Mike Hunter speaks about a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma in an opioid abuse responsibility case on March 26. Listening are OSU President Burns Hargis and OSU Center for Health Sciences President Kayse Shrum. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World file

Even as the first $102.5 million from Oklahoma’s settlement with Purdue Pharma arrived this week, Broken Arrow and four other municipalities in the state worried about its potential impact on their lawsuit against the drug manufacturer.

Alex Gerszewski, spokesman for Attorney General Mike Hunter, confirmed Wednesday that Purdue has paid $102.5 million into a special account as specified in the settlement announced last week, and that another $12.5 million is expected from Purdue within the next few days.

Gerszewski said the $102.5 million has been deposited into a bank account controlled by a new foundation established to manage the fund. The entire amount is earmarked for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences’ Center for Wellness and Recovery, an addiction treatment and research program.

He said a similar but separate foundation is being set up to administer the $12.5 million, which is set aside for local programs associated with addiction and opioid abuse.

The settlement, with a total value of $270 million, released Purdue from the state’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturers. That suit, with the remaining defendants, is scheduled for trial before Cleveland County District Judge Thad Balkman in late May.

On Tuesday, attorneys representing Broken Arrow, Oklahoma City, Midwest City, Enid and Lawton asked Balkman to clarify that the state’s settlement with Purdue does not bar further action by them against the firm.

The five also have a pending suit against Purdue and other opioid manufacturers.

The motion filed Tuesday cites the transcript of a March 26 hearing before Balkman in which Bradley Beckworth, one of the state’s private attorneys, says cities and counties will decide for themselves whether to claim a share of the $12.5 million pool Purdue is expected to provide this week.

Those that choose to participate will have to waive their right to further legal action, Beckworth said, according to the transcript.

Tuesday’s motion, though, says the consent judgment as written is “ambiguous and could be construed to bind (local governments) to its terms.”

Inquiries to the city of Broken Arrow were referred to Tony Puckett, an Oklahoma City attorney representing the municipalities. Puckett did not return a phone call Wednesday afternoon.

Gerszewski, in an email, said, “Our office is committed to working with the cities and counties to clarify any issues and concerns they have.”

In addition to the $115 million paid this week, the state’s settlement with Purdue also calls for the payment of $60 million in legal fees, including $500,000 to the attorney general’s office, and another $75 million over five years to the OSUCHS program.

The payments are to come from the Sackler family, owner of Purdue, rather than the company itself.

In addition, the OSUCHS program is to receive $20 million worth of addiction treatment drugs over several years.

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Randy Krehbiel

918-581-8365

randy.krehbiel@tulsaworld.com

Twitter: @rkrehbiel

Randy has been with the Tulsa World since 1979. He is a native of Hinton, Okla., and graduate of Oklahoma State University. Krehbiel primarily covers government and politics. Phone: 918-581-8365

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