Opi­oid maker agrees to deal

Mary­land AG one of sev­eral to crit­i­cize ten­ta­tive set­tle­ment

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HART­FORD, CONN. – A ten­ta­tive set­tle­ment an­nounced Wed­nes­day over the role Pur­due Pharma played in the na­tion’s opi­oid addiction crisis falls short of the far-reach­ing na­tional set­tle­ment the OxyCon­tin maker had been seeking for months, with lit­i­ga­tion sure to con­tinue against the com­pany and the fam­ily that owns it.

Sev­eral state at­tor­neys gen­eral, in­clud­ing Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh, crit­i­cized the pro­posed set­tle­ment as in­ad­e­quate.

Af­ter call­ing it “in­suf­fi­cient,” Frosh said Mary­land will not agree to the terms.

“Here, we have the peo­ple who owned and op­er­ated Pur­due Pharma, who left a trail of addiction and death in Mary­land and through­out the coun­try and they’re lit­er­ally not go­ing to write a check to get out of this,” Frosh said.

The city of Baltimore is not part of the set­tle­ment, but Anne Arun­del County is par­tic­i­pat­ing, of­fi­cials said Wed­nes­day.

The agree­ment with about half the states and at­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing roughly 2,000 lo­cal gov­ern­ments would have Pur­due file for a struc­tured bank­ruptcy and pay as much as $12 bil­lion over time, with about $3 bil­lion com­ing from the Sack­ler fam­ily. That num­ber in­volves fu­ture prof­its and the value of drugs cur­rently in de­vel­op­ment. In ad­di­tion, the fam­ily would have to give up its own­er­ship of the com­pany and con­trib­ute an­other $1.5 bil­lion by sell­ing an­other of its phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies, Mundipharm­a.

Sev­eral at­tor­neys gen­eral said the agree­ment was a bet­ter way to en­sure com­pen­sa­tion from Pur­due and the Sack­lers than tak­ing their chances if Pur­due files for bank­ruptcy on its own.

Ari­zona At­tor­ney Gen­eral Mark Brnovich called the deal “the quickest and

surest way to get im­me­di­ate relief” for com­mu­ni­ties harmed by the opi­oid crisis.

Mary­land and more than two dozen cities and coun­ties in the state have sued opi­oid makers, dis­trib­u­tors and oth­ers over the mount­ing over­dose fa­tal­i­ties and costs as­so­ci­ated with treatment and prevention. Some sued in fed­eral court while the state’s and Baltimore’s cases were filed in state courts. Talk of an um­brella set­tle­ment sim­i­lar to those reached with to­bacco com­pa­nies has been sim­mer­ing for some time.

Over­dose deaths in the state ex­ceeded 2,300 in 2018, with the ma­jor­ity at­trib­uted to opi­oids, ac­cord­ing to the state De­part­ment of Health.

While deaths linked to pre­scrip­tion opi­oids have de­clined and those from heroin and the pow­er­ful syn­thetic opi­oid fen­tanyl have surged, health of­fi­cials still say many peo­ple’s sub­stance use dis­or­der be­gan by with the use of legally pre­scribed opi­oids.

In May, Mary­land joined four other states in fil­ing charges against the own­ers and for­mer di­rec­tors of Pur­due Pharma, say­ing the com­pany en­gaged in a pat­tern of de­cep­tive con­duct, en­cour­ag­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate use of opi­oid painkiller­s and fu­el­ing the opi­oid crisis.

Frosh said the Sack­ler fam­ily’s $3 bil­lion would be paid us­ing for­eign assets, not cash, es­sen­tially putting prof­its from for­eign assets owned by the fam­ily into a pool that would help pay for the set­tle­ment.

“They’re say­ing ‘We’ll throw our for­eign assets into the pot and we’ll guar­an­tee that they’ll bring $3 bil­lion,’” Frosh said.

Mary­land’s top at­tor­ney said he doesn’t be­lieve the Sack­lers are con­tribut­ing enough and that, while the state is still open to a set­tle­ment, Mary­land likely will con­tinue to pur­sue its own law­suit un­less halted by the courts.

“There has to be some sig­nif­i­cant ac­count­abil­ity and this just doesn’t cut it for us,” Frosh said.

Baltimore also is not part of the set­tle­ment reached Wed­nes­day, ac­cord­ing to Suzanne San­gree, an at­tor­ney for the city. The city sued Pur­due Pharma and oth­ers in the city’s Circuit Court last year and the set­tle­ment in­volves the multi-district fed­eral lit­i­ga­tion, she ex­plained.

Anne Arun­del County of­fi­cials are in­volved in the set­tle­ment, said Chris Trum­bauer, a for­mer county coun­cil­man who now serves as a se­nior ad­viser to County Ex­ec­u­tive Steuart Pittman.

The county sued Pur­due Pharma and other com­pa­nies in the opi­oid in­dus­try in Jan­uary 2018 amid record fa­tal over­dose num­bers.

A spokesper­son for An­napo­lis, which sued Pur­due Pharma and oth­ers in Fe­bru­ary, said the city is not in­volved in any set­tle­ment at this point.

Jonathan No­vak, an at­tor­ney with Dal­las-based Fears Nachawati, which is rep­re­sent­ing 18 lo­cal gov­ern­ments in the state, also did not re­spond to mes­sages seeking com­ment.

In an­tic­i­pa­tion of a set­tle­ment, the Mary­land Gen­eral As­sem­bly passed leg­is­la­tion cre­at­ing an opi­oid resti­tu­tion fund and directing how of­fi­cials spend any rev­enue re­cov­ered by the state, said Del. Sandy Rosen­berg, a Baltimore Demo­crat who spon­sored the bill. He said spend­ing is authorized for im­prov­ing ac­cess to the over­dose an­ti­dote Nalox­one, ex­pand­ing ac­cess to crisis beds and res­i­den­tial treatment ser­vices, or­ga­niz­ing school ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns, en­force­ment of laws re­lated to opi­oid pre­scrip­tions and sales, and sup­port­ing and ex­pand­ing other sub­stance use treatment and prevention pro­grams.

But even as news of the set­tle­ment spread Wed­nes­day, at­tor­neys gen­eral from New York, Con­necti­cut, Pennsylvan­ia and other states vowed to con­tinue their le­gal bat­tles against the com­pany and the Sack­lers

New York Atty. Gen. Leti­tia James ac­cused the Sack­lers of “at­tempt­ing to evade re­spon­si­bil­ity and low­ball the mil­lions of vic­tims of the opi­oid crisis.”

“Adeal that doesn’t ac­count for the depth of pain and de­struc­tion caused by Pur­due and the Sack­lers is an in­sult, plain and sim­ple,” James said in a state­ment. “As at­tor­ney gen­eral, I will con­tinue to seek jus­tice for vic­tims and fight to hold bad ac­tors ac­count­able, no matter how pow­er­ful they may be.”

New York is among the states that joined Mary­land in fil­ing charges against the com­pa­nies, their own­ers and di­rec­tors.

Con­necti­cut Atty. Gen. Wil­liam Tong said in a state­ment that noth­ing has changed with pro­posed set­tle­ment and the state would con­tinue to pur­sue Pur­due if it files for bank­ruptcy.

“The scope and scale of the pain, death and de­struc­tion that Pur­due and the Sack­lers have caused far ex­ceeds any­thing that has been of­fered thus far,” Tong said.

Pennsylvan­ia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Josh Shapiro called the ten­ta­tive deal “a slap in the face to ev­ery­one who has had to bury a loved one due to this fam­ily’s de­struc­tion and greed.”

The ten­ta­tive agree­ment and ex­pected bank­ruptcy fil­ing would re­move Pur­due from the first fed­eral trial over the opi­oids epi­demic, sched­uled to be­gin next month in Ohio.

The law­suits as­sert that Pur­due ag­gres­sively sold OxyCon­tin as a drug with a low risk of addiction de­spite know­ing that wasn’t true.

There was no re­sponse Wed­nes­day from Pur­due, and at­tempts to reach mem­bers of the Sack­ler fam­ily were not suc­cess­ful. In court fil­ings, Pur­due has ar­gued its prod­ucts were ap­proved by fed­eral reg­u­la­tors and pre­scribed by doc­tors.

In March, Pur­due and mem­bers of the Sack­ler fam­ily reached a $270-mil­lion set­tle­ment with Ok­la­homa to avoid a trial on the toll of opi­oids there.

A court fil­ing made pub­lic in Mas­sachusetts this year as­serts that mem­bers of the Sack­ler fam­ily were paid more than $4 bil­lion by Pur­due from 2007 to 2018. Much of the fam­ily’s for­tune is be­lieved to be held out­side the United States, which could com­pli­cate law­suits against the fam­ily over opi­oids.

JES­SICA HILL/AP 2018

The Sack­lers, the con­trol­ling fam­ily of Stam­ford, Conn.-based Pur­due Pharma, would give up con­trol of the firm.

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