Jack Walker Published

Supreme Court Rules OxyContin Makers Eligible For Civil Charges

A gavel rests on a wooden block. In the background is a scale representing checks and balances.
The United States Supreme Court rejected a settlement from the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, in a decision of 5 to 4.
Africa Studio/Adobe Stock

The United States Supreme Court rejected a deal Thursday that would have granted OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma immunity from civil charges for its role in the opioid epidemic. Now, West Virginia’s attorney general says he will continue to fight for money from drug manufacturers. 

Critics say the company knew of OxyContin’s addictive quality while aggressively pushing its sale, even as hundreds of thousands of Americans died from opioid overdose since the 1990s.

West Virginia has been one the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. At least 14,000 residents have died from opioid-related overdose since 2001, and between 2022 and 2023 the state’s overdose rate rose even as the national rate fell.

The nixed deal with the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, would have provided $6 billion to addiction prevention and recovery services nationally, with tens of millions of dollars slated for West Virginia.

But West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said that, regardless, the court’s decision marked an important step toward holding opioid manufacturers legally responsible for the fallout of opioid addiction.

“We have fought hard — and we’re still fighting — to bring a sense of healing to the state,” Morrisey said in a press release Thursday. “With this decision, we will double down on our efforts to hold those who are accountable for the damage that’s been done to our state. We’ll be examining new ways to bring this case to closure.”

Morrisey added that, while money from legal settlements with opioid manufacturers cannot “bring back the lives lost from the opioid epidemic,” he hopes it can “provide much needed help to those affected.”