Grieving Chesterfield family joins fight against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma

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'This opioid had control over him'

Victims of OxyContin are battling back. A Chesterfield County family has joined the nationwide fight for compensation from the drug manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. They’re seeking billions in bankruptcy dollars in hopes of saving others they say OxyContin took control over their loved ones.

“I said, ‘Scotts’s dead.’ I thought he was going to say no, but he said yes. And I thought, ‘oh my God,’” recalls an emotional Linda Zebrowski.

It’s been almost three years since Zebrowski’s son, Scott Zebrowski, died, but the grief is still there.

“I started screaming. I thought I was having a heart attack,” recalls Jill Cichowicz when she first learned her twin brother Scott had passed away.

Scott was good looking, fit and living the life. He was managing fitness gyms by the beach in California when suddenly everything changed.

“He had a back injury on a job,” Zebrowski explained. “He was prescribed OxyContin to handle the pain and that was when we noticed the change.

“I noticed, like, when he called his speech would be slurred. I said, ‘Scott, it seems like you are taking drugs, and he goes, ‘it’s prescription mom, it’s fine.'”

But Scott wasn’t fine. He was hooked on OxyContin. When his prescriptions ran out, the 38-year-old shopped around.

“A friend had given him an OxyContin, or so he thought, and it was laced with Fentanyl. He died on a curb getting into his car at Starbucks. This opioid had control over him,” Zebrowski said.

It’s why Jill and Linda are part of a claim seeking billions of dollars from Purdue Pharma through their bankruptcy case. Zebrowski has worked with the McShin Foundation to hold an annual fundraising event in her brother’s name.

A Night For Scott helps to raise funds for a scholarship to help others struggling with addiction. Zebrowski says if the family is awarded money from their claim, they would use the money to prevent others from enduring the same pain.

“If there is some sort of settlement, we plan to put it back in somehow with recovery,” Zebrowski explained.

The family says they would likely give locally to McShin and The Healing Place.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy as part of a plan to settle thousands of lawsuits filed against them. The drugmaker has never admitted to any wrongdoing but has been accused of misbranding and mi-marketing oxy.

Internal documents have shown Purdue knew the drugs pain relief wore off faster than promised and promotional videos shared with doctors claimed ‘less than one percent of those taking opioids become addicted.’

“Purdue Pharmaceuticals knowingly and willingly infiltrated the entire medical community and told them it was safe and it was non-addictive,” said Kay Scarpone, who lost her son Joseph, a Marine, to an overdose in 2015.

To cope, Scarpone launched the “Team Sharing” Facebook group to help other grieving parents. It has now turned into a non-profit and led to her becoming a part of the ad hoc committee helping others like Linda and Jill file claims against Purdue.

“He was a wonderful child, he just got caught up in the addicting drug market that they were marketing,” Scarpone said of her son.

“They would mislead doctors as to the level of the addictiveness of these pills,” says Ed Neiger, the attorney representing the families in court. “They have a huge role in the current opioid crisis that America is suffering from.”

Until now, much of the ongoing litigation surrounding Purdue’s bankruptcy has mostly focused on reimbursing city, county or state governments. Neiger says he’s helping to be a voice for the victims — people who lost jobs, need rehab, buried loved ones or left behind a child when they overdosed.

“Who’s going to raise that child? Who’s going to put that child through college?” Scarpone questions.

“What I am trying to do is for a portion of that money to go to the actual victims; not to states to fill budget gaps,” Neiger explained. “We strongly believe that the families who have suffered should get first dibs to whatever money there is,” explains Neiger. “If you are interested in filing a claim, you can reach out to Scarpone, Neiger, or Cichowicz for more information.

For additional information on whether you may be entitled to recovery, click here.

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