Purdue Pharma reaches tentative opioid settlement
Firm would pay billions; Pa. not part of agreement
HARTFORD, Conn. — A tentative settlement was announced Wednesday over the role Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis, but it falls short of the farreaching national settlement the OxyContin maker had been seeking for months, with litigation expected to continue against the company and the family that owns it.
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, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs 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.
Pennsylvania was not part of the agreement.
State 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.”
He said he intends to continue fighting the Sacklers, who he said did not have to acknowledge any wrongdoing in their agreement. “This is far from over,” he said. Still, 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 said the deal “was the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family.”
But even advocates of the deal cautioned that it’s not yet complete.
“I don’t think there’s a settlement,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose state was among those supporting it. “There is a proposal that’s been accepted by a majority of attorneys general, but there are quite a few significant states that have not joined at this point.”
“There’s still a lot of telephone calls going on. I think we see the outlines of a thing that might be, but it’s not yet,” Mr. Yost said.
Opioid addiction has contributed to the deaths of some 400,000 Americans over the past two decades, hitting many rural communities particularly hard.
The lawsuits against Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue paint it as a particular villain in the crisis. They say the company’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin downplayed addiction risks and led to more widespread opioid prescribing, even though only a sliver of the opioid painkillers sold in the U.S. were its products.
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.
Even with Wednesday’s development, many states have not signed on. Several state attorneys general vowed to continue their legal battles against the Sacklers and the company in bankruptcy court. Roughly 20 states have sued members of the Sackler family in state courts.
In addition to Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Wisconsin were among the states saying they were not part of the agreement.
“Our position remains firm and unchanged and nothing for us has changed today,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
Ryan Hampton, a Los Angeles-based advocate for people in recovery from opioid addiction, said he was launching “a massive effort” among victims’ families and others impacted by the crisis to urge state attorneys general not to accept the deal.
“The amount of money that’s being offered in this settlement doesn’t even scratch the surface for what’s needed,” Mr. Hampton said. “We want to see Purdue have their day in court. We know more money will come if this case goes to trial.”
Narcotics detective Ben Hill, with the Barberton Police Department in Ohio, shows on Wednesday two bags of medications that are stored in its headquarters and slated for destruction.