HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Lawyers Drop Federal Effort To Merge Oxycontin Cases
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jun 2003
Source: Roanoke Times (VA)
Copyright: 2003 Roanoke Times


The Lawsuits Accuse Purdue Pharma Of Overpromoting The Prescription 
Painkiller While Playing Down Its Addictive Side.

Lawyers have dropped an effort to consolidate dozens of federal lawsuits, 
including three in Southwest Virginia, against the maker of the painkiller 

Earlier this year, three lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Abingdon were 
put on hold because of the possibility that pretrial proceedings would be 
heard by a single judge appointed to handle all such cases nationwide.

The lawsuits accuse Purdue Pharma, a Connecticut company that makes 
OxyContin, of overpromoting the prescription painkiller while playing down 
its addictive side.

Litigation was stayed earlier this year when the plaintiffs in a South 
Carolina OxyContin case filed a motion to have the lawsuits heard through 
multidistrict litigation, which is used to consolidate the handling of 
discovery and other pretrial proceedings in similar claims nationwide.

But the plaintiffs recently withdrew their request, allowing the cases to 
be handled individually in their respective courts, according to Tim 
Bannon, a spokesman for Purdue Pharma.

The company had objected to multidistrict litigation because it thought 
each case was different, Bannon said. Dropping the process "enables the 
cases to be tried on the merits, and we think the merits favor us," Bannon 

Efforts to reach the plaintiffs' attorneys were unsuccessful.

William Eskridge, an Abingdon attorney who represents Purdue Pharma in the 
three lawsuits filed in Virginia, said it's likely that the stay will be 
lifted and the cases will proceed toward trial. One trial that was to begin 
in October was postponed earlier this year because of the request for 
multidistrict litigation.

Had the process been used, the cases would have returned to their original 
courts for trials if they survived the consolidated pretrial proceedings.

Hundreds of people have become addicted to OxyContin in far Southwest 
Virginia, where police say it has become the drug of choice among abusers 
who crush the pills and snort or inject the powder for a heroin-like high.

Purdue Pharma has contested claims raised by more than 200 lawsuits filed 
against it, saying that those who misuse OxyContin should not be allowed to 
recover damages - or to infringe on the rights of legitimate patients who 
need the medication.

About 30 lawsuits have been dropped or dismissed, Bannon said, and the 
company has yet to settle a claim or lose a case in court.
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