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Purdue Pharma Maker of OxyContin agrees to Settlement in Oklahoma via WHNT.com

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed Tuesday to pay a groundbreaking $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller.

It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave of nearly 2,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma that threaten to push the company into bankruptcy and have stained the name of the Sackler family, whose members are among the world’s foremost philanthropists.

“The addiction crisis facing our state and nation is a clear and present danger, but we’re doing something about it today,” Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said.

Nearly $200 million will go toward establishing a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment at Oklahoma State University in Tulsa, while local governments will get $12.5 million. The Sacklers are responsible for $75 million of the settlement.

In settling, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company denied any wrongdoing in connection with what Hunter called “this nightmarish epidemic” and “the worst public health crisis in our state and nation we’ve ever seen.”

The deal comes two months before Oklahoma’s 2017 lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and other drug companies was set to become the first one in the recent barrage of litigation to go to trial. The remaining defendants still face trial May 28.

Opioids, including heroin and prescription drugs like OxyContin, were a factor in a record 48,000 deaths across the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oklahoma recorded about 400 opioid deaths that year. State officials have said that since 2009, more Oklahomans have died from opioids than in vehicle crashes.

Other states have suffered far worse, including West Virginia, with the nation’s highest opioid death rate. It had over 1,000 deaths in 2017.

In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the money that will go toward addiction studies and treatment in Oklahoma will help people across the country. CEO Craig Landau said the company is committed to “help drive solutions to the opioid addiction crisis.”

Plaintiffs’ attorney Paul Hanly, who is not involved in the Oklahoma case but is representing scores of other governments, welcomed the deal, saying: “That suggests that Purdue is serious about trying to deal with the problem. Hopefully, this is the first of many.”

But some activists were furious, saying they were denied the chance to hold Purdue Pharma fully accountable in public, in front of a jury.

“This decision is a kick in the gut to our community,” said Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from opioid addiction. “We deserve to have our day in court with Purdue. The parents, the families, the survivors deserve at least that. And Oklahoma stripped that from us today.”

Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin in the 1990s and marketed it hard to doctors, making tens of billions of dollars from the drug. But the company has been hit with lawsuits from state and local governments trying to hold it responsible for the scourge of addiction.

The lawsuits accuse the company of downplaying the addiction risks and pushing doctors to increase dosages even as the dangers became known. According to a court filing, Richard Sackler, then senior vice president responsible for sales, proudly told the audience at a launch party for OxyContin in 1996 that it would create a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Earlier this month, Purdue Pharma officials acknowledged that they are considering bankruptcy . But Oklahoma’s attorney general said the company gave assurances it will not take such a step in the near term. And he said the settlement money is “bankruptcy proof” — that is, “it’s not at risk in the event Purdue declares bankruptcy.”

Lance Lang, a 36-year-old recovering user from Oklahoma City, said he is glad some of the settlement will go toward helping those still suffering from addiction.

“My heart breaks for those that we’ve already lost. I’ve buried several myself,” said Lang, who now helps recovering users find housing. “But I also know we have waiting lists of dozens and dozens for our facilities, and the state has waiting lists of hundreds and hundreds of people who need help right now.”

But Cheryl Juaire, whose 23-year-old son Corey died of an overdose in 2011, said she was devastated to hear about the settlement.

Jauire, who lives in Marlborough, Massachusetts, had been organizing a group of hundreds of mothers to go to the first day of the trial and stand outside with photos of their dead children. She said a complete airing of the facts is the only way to fully hold Purdue to account.

A settlement is “a huge disservice to the tens of thousands of families here in the United States who buried a child,” she said. “That’s blood money from our children.”

Members of the Sackler family are defendants in some of the lawsuits but were not actually parties to the Oklahoma case. The company said the family nevertheless voluntarily contributed to the settlement. “We have profound compassion for those who are affected by addiction,” the family said in a statement.

The Sacklers are major donors to cultural institutions, and the family name is emblazoned on the walls at many of the world’s great museums and universities. In the past few weeks, as the accusations have mounted, the Tate museums in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York have cut ties with the family, and other institutions have come under pressure to turn down donations or remove the Sackler name.

A Massachusetts court filing made public earlier this year found that Sackler family members were paid at least $4 billion from 2007 until last year.

Purdue Pharma has settled other lawsuits over the years, and three executives pleaded guilty to criminal charges in 2007. But this is the first settlement to come out of the surge of litigation in the past few years that focuses largely on the company’s more recent conduct.

More than 1,400 federal lawsuits over the opioid crisis have been consolidated in front of a single judge in Cleveland who is pushing the drug makers and distributors to reach a nationwide settlement.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The maker of OxyContin and the company’s controlling family agreed Tuesday to pay a groundbreaking $270 million to Oklahoma to settle allegations they helped create the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller. It is the first settlement to come out of the recent coast-to-coast wave…

via Maker of OxyContin agrees to $270M settlement in Oklahoma — WHNT.com

Patient Hospital Rights via WTTV

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Questions, accusations, and malpractice claims all surround a neurosurgeon who practiced in central Indiana for decades.

According to patients, Dr. John T. Cummings abruptly left Community Health Network two years ago with no explanation.

Some patients just want to know what happened to their neurosurgeon, but others contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers with their concerns, so we started investigating.

Former patient Lisa Bryant stepped forward first, saying she wants to know the truth and she filed a medical malpractice claim with the Indiana Department of Insurance against Cummings and Community Health Network.

“We had a connection. … I thought he was a very nice man,” Bryant said.

Bryant first saw Cummings for leg and back pain in 2013. She said pretty quickly, he told her surgery was her best option.

“I felt comfortable,” Bryant said.

Coming out of that surgery, though, Bryant said her condition worsened and she underwent more surgeries, enduring more pain that still continues to this day.

“It’s bad. Some days I wake up, three or four o’clock in the morning, I cry. It hurts,” Bryant said.

It’s that pain, and the questions Bryant said still linger, that caused her to reach out. Bryant said in the midst of her treatment, Cummings left Community Health with no explanation.

“I was really thinking this is all normal, and it’s not,” Bryant said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers found that Bryant is not the only patient with questions, and in some cases, accusations.

The Indiana Department of Insurance posts medical malpractice claims on a public database online. In the last four years, 15 patients have filed claims against Cummings. Two of those cases have since been dismissed.

Randy Stohler filed one of the now-dismissed cases. His sister, Teresa Knight, said her family couldn’t see a path forward with the claim after Stohler died from a heart attack earlier this year.

“It is hard, we do talk about him a lot, what if? He has a daughter and he’s got two very young granddaughters,” Knight said.

Knight said she was with her brother for a spinal surgery in June of 2015, and a year later, when he decided to take action.

“We were sitting at the house one day and kind of talking. He says, ‘You know Teresa … I think I need to see an attorney,’” Knight said.

Stohler’s family voluntarily dismissed his claim after his death, but 13 cases against Cummings remain active.

Those cases vary widely in how much detail patients reveal in their complaints, but many patients describe undergoing complicated spinal surgeries. More than one accuse Cummings of performing “unnecessary” surgery or going “directly to surgery” instead of seeking “conservative treatment.”

Other patients describe “severe pain” and the need for “additional” procedures or corrective surgeries.

It’s important to note that medical malpractice claims are common and neurosurgery is a field where the risk of surgery can be incredibly high. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine ranked neurosurgery as the number one field for lawsuits, with nearly 20 percent of all neurosurgeons facing a malpractice claim each year.

CBS4 Problem Solvers wanted to get an explanation, but Community Health Network declined our request for an interview and refused to answer multiple questions.

A spokesperson for the hospital system would only confirm Cummings’ dates of employment, which started in 2010 and ended on December 10, 2015.

In Indiana, medical malpractice claims must be reviewed by a panel of three doctors before a lawsuit can proceed in court. Most cases take years to resolve.

Only one panel has convened in a case against Cummings since 2014. This August, that panel came to the “unanimous opinion” that he and Community Health Network “failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care.” The case involved a woman who said Cummings “improperly placed hardware” in her spine during a surgery.

Additionally, an earlier 2011 case alleging that a piece of equipment “entered the spinal canal” during surgery, causing the patient to be permanently disabled, was allowed to go forward based on a 2014 panel decision.

That case, however, was instead settled for $1,000,000, a month after Cummings left the hospital.

Michael Ellington had no idea he would be one of Cummings’ last patients. After surgery in December 2015, Ellington said he tried to get in touch with the doctor about his pain.

Ellington later received a letter, telling patients “effective immediately, Dr. John T. Cummings will no longer see patients at Community.”

Ellington said another doctor diagnosed him with a spinal fluid leak and he underwent a second surgery.

“I haven’t been the same since,” Ellington said.

It’s unclear whether the claims, and their timing, are linked to Cummings’ parting from Community. The surgeon faced more than a dozen malpractice claims prior to 2014 and a majority were dismissed, or medical panels found no malpractice.

There are also patients who say they received great care from the surgeon. One told Community Health Network on Facebook, “You lost a top notch surgeon … (who) saved my back and kept me walking.”

Another patient even created a Facebook group dedicated to search for Cummings after his departure, saying “he remains undoubtedly one of the best neurosurgeons in Indianapolis.”

Cummings was also featured as a “Top Doctor” in Indianapolis Monthly magazine in 2013 and 2015.

Hospital tax records show that in 2011, Cummings was one of Community Health’s highest paid physicians, making more than $1.2 million.

What is clear, is that many patients want to know what happened to Cummings; but in the case of Bryant, Ellington, and Knight, it’s because they say they’re concerned.

“We have no idea, but certainly there is a problem,” Knight said.

“Definitely I believe that I’m not the only one,” Bryant said.

CBS4 Problem Solvers tried to find Cummings to get his side of the story. He appeared to still be living in the area, and a woman who identified herself as his wife said via Facebook that he had not been practicing because of what she called an “exclusive clause” with Community Health Network, which ends next month, exactly two years after his last day.

Lawyers for Cummings did not return repeated requests for comment.

Even though a medical panel found Cummings responsible in one case in August, they also recommended his name not be forwarded to the Medical Licensing Board for fitness to practice.

The board renewed Cummings’ Indiana medical license a few weeks ago.

CBS4 Problem Solvers wants to hear from patients, whether you’ve had a good or bad experience. You can contact us at ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com or (317) 677-1544.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Questions, accusations, and malpractice claims all surround a neurosurgeon who practiced in central Indiana for decades. According to patients, Dr. John T. Cummings abruptly left Community Health Network two years ago with no explanation. Some patients just want to know what happened to their neurosurgeon, but others contacted CBS4 Problem Solvers with…

via Patients search for neurosurgeon who abruptly left major hospital system — CBS 4 – Indianapolis News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | WTTV