Oklahoma State University plans to launch a National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment using funds from a lawsuit settlement with OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, Science reported yesterday (April 2).
According to the settlement, Purdue Pharma and the family that owns the company is slated to provide a $177 million endowment for the national center and $20 million over five years for anti–opioid-addiction drugs such as naloxone. The money will build out the university’s Center for Wellness and Recovery, which opened in 2017 and was designed to train doctors on treating addiction, study its causes, help those suffering from opioid use disorder, and educate the public about the opioid epidemic.
“Our mission is to train primary care physicians to work in rural and underserved areas,” Kayse Shrum, OSU medical school president, tells Science. “And that’s where the [addiction] crisis is most acute. So we began hiring psychiatrists with expertise in addiction medicine.” Currently, the center has a $2.4 million budget and a staff of eight.
The medical school’s head of psychiatry Jason Beaman says OSU will need to come a long way to become a distinguished medical research organization. “The [psychiatry] department has zero history of NIH [National Institutes of Health] grants,” he tells Science. “But we’ve got four in review right now.” Two addiction medicine fellows are also slated to start at the center this summer.
There is still some uncertainty about whether the center funding will actually come through, however. The Washington Post reported earlier (March 26) that Purdue Pharma could be forced into bankruptcy as a result of all the opioid-related lawsuits that have been filed against the company. There are some 1,700 pending cases.