Pur­due Pharma reaches ten­ta­tive opi­oid set­tle­ment

Firm would pay bil­lions; Pa. not part of agree­ment

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Front Page -

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.”

Keith Srakocic/As­so­ci­ated Press

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.

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