Court orders key documents from OxyContin maker to be unsealed

A Kentucky appeals court on Friday ruled that records about Purdue Pharma’s marketing of its opioid drug OxyContin must be unsealed, potentially offering an important new window into the company’s practices.

The documents ordered to be unsealed include a deposition from Richard Sackler, the former president of Purdue Pharma.

The company has been under scrutiny for years for deceptively marketing OxyContin, downplaying the addictive properties of the drug and helping contribute to the crisis of opioid addiction.

The documents to be unsealed are part of a 2015 settlement Purdue Pharma reached with Kentucky.

The ruling is a win for STAT, the publication that filed a motion more than two years ago to unseal the records.

“We’re tremendously encouraged by this ruling,” Rick Berke, the executive editor of STAT, said in a statement in his publication. “More than two years after we filed this suit, the scourge of opioid addiction has grown worse, and the questions have grown about Purdue’s practices in marketing OxyContin. It is vital that that we all learn as much as possible about the culpability of Purdue, and the consequences of the company’s decisions on the health of Americans.”

Purdue indicated on Friday that it intends to appeal the decision, meaning the documents will not be released right away.

“We’re disappointed with the Court of Appeals’ decision today,” the company said. “The documents in question were never entered into evidence and did not play a role in any judicial decision. Under Kentucky law, such documents should remain private as outlined in the Protective Order with the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

“This decision raises important issues under Kentucky law, and we intend to pursue our rights to seek judicial review of the decision,” it added.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma paid more than $600 million and pleaded guilty to misleading the public about the addictiveness of OxyContin. And last year, 41 state attorneys general announced they were investigating Purdue and other opioid makers over their marketing practices.