Josh Shapiro files sep­a­rate law­suit against own­ers of Pur­due Pharma

Penn­syl­va­nia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral calls Sack­ler fam­ily ‘per­son­ally li­able for the dev­as­ta­tion’

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Aubrey Whelan

A day af­ter Pur­due Pharma reached a ten­ta­tive set­tle­ment in a fed­eral law­suit over its sales of opi­oid painkiller­s, Penn­syl­va­nia’s at­tor­ney gen­eral filed a sep­a­rate law­suit against the Sack­ler fam­ily — the com­pany’s own­ers — al­leg­ing that mem­bers of the fam­ily “are per­son­ally li­able for the dev­as­ta­tion of the opi­oid cri­sis.”

Josh Shapiro and oth­ers had been ne­go­ti­at­ing a pos­si­ble set­tle­ment with Pur­due Pharma in the fed­eral case un­til talks broke down last week. The case had con­sol­i­dated thou­sands of law­suits brought by mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from all over the coun­try who al­leged that Pur­due Pharma’s mar­ket­ing of the opi­oid painkiller OxyCon­tin fu­eled an opi­oid over­dose epi­demic that has killed thou­sands.

Twenty-two state at­tor­neys gen­eral and more than 2,000 cities and coun­ties had ac­cepted the set­tle­ment — re­port­edly worth $10 to $12 bil­lion — un­der which Pur­due would de­clare bank­ruptcy and in­stead become a trust “whose main pur­pose would be to com­bat the opi­oid epi­demic,” the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

The Sack­lers would give up con­trol of the com­pany and con­trib­ute $3 bil­lion of their per­sonal funds in the deal, the AP re­ported.

But Shapiro and sev­eral other at­tor­neys gen­eral have said they’re not sat­is­fied with the set­tle­ment be­cause the Sack­lers haven’t com­mit­ted more of their per­sonal for­tunes. Penn­syl­va­nia is among the states hard­est hit by opi­oid-re­lated deaths.

In Au­gust, Al­len­town joined

mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the coun­try as well as Le­high County in fil­ing suit. In 2017, Le­high County recorded a record 200 drug-re­lated deaths. Last year it fell to about 160, about the same num­ber that died in 2016. At least 72 of the 2017 over­dose deaths oc­curred in Al­len­town, ex­clud­ing hos­pi­tal deaths, ac­cord­ing to city of­fi­cials.

“Through our ne­go­ti­a­tions with Pur­due Pharma, it be­came crys­tal clear the Sack­lers have no in­ten­tion of tak­ing any own­er­ship for engi­neer­ing an epi­demic that claims the lives of 12 Penn­syl­va­ni­ans each day,” Shapiro said in a news re­lease Thurs­day morn­ing. He wrote that his law­suit would “re­quire this fam­ily of bil­lion­aires” to “take re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pain they caused.”

New Jersey At­tor­ney Gen­eral Gurb­bir S. Gre­wal said, too, that he would con­tinue to pur­sue the Sack­lers in court.

“Pur­due Pharma has been morally bank­rupt for years. If the com­pany en­ters fi­nan­cial bank­ruptcy as well, New Jersey will con­tinue to pur­sue all avail­able le­gal op­tions against those re­spon­si­ble,” he wrote in an email Wed­nes­day. “If Pur­due can­not pay for the harm it in­flicted, the Sack­lers will.”

Shapiro’s of­fice also has a law­suit pend­ing against Pur­due Pharma over its mar­ket­ing prac­tices in the state. Shapiro says the two law­suits will pro­ceed in­de­pen­dently.

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