Pur­due talks ad­vance; no deal near

The News-Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Paul Schott

STAM­FORD — At­tor­neys rep­re­sent­ing about 2,000 cities and coun­ties su­ing OxyCon­tin maker Pur­due Pharma an­nounced Wed­nes­day that set­tle­ment talks were ad­vanc­ing, but Con­necti­cut At­tor­ney Gen­eral Wil­liam Tong and a num­ber of his coun­ter­parts said they were not ready to make a deal.

Lawyers rep­re­sent­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments whose cases against Pur­due and

other opi­oid makers have been con­sol­i­dated into a “mul­ti­dis­trict lit­i­ga­tion” group in fed­eral court in Cleve­land rec­om­mended that their clients “move for­ward in sup­port of Pur­due’s cur­rent set­tle­ment pro­posal.” But the first of the MDL tri­als could still start on Oct. 21.

Even with 22 state at­tor­neys gen­eral re­port­edly sup­port­ing the set­tle­ment frame­work, Tong’s and oth­ers’ op­po­si­tion sug­gests a com­pre­hen­sive set­tle­ment with most or all of the 46 states with pend­ing law­suits is far from be­ing clinched.

“This com­mu­nity­driven so­lu­tion sup­ports those most af­fected by the pre­scrip­tion opi­oid cri­sis — and demon­strates that Main Streets across the coun­try are lead­ing the charge to fight, abate, and re­cover from the epi­demic,” MDL plain­tiffs’ at­tor­neys Paul Hanly Jr., Paul Far­rell Jr. and Joe Rice said in a state­ment. “In the days to come, if the pro­posal meets sat­is­fac­tory doc­u­men­ta­tion of the fi­nal terms, we look for­ward to shar­ing more de­tails about the res­o­lu­tion’s struc­ture and how it will pro­vide di­rect sup­port at the lo­cal level.”

The state­ment did not out­line the prospec­tive set­tle­ment terms, but the Sack­ler fam­ily mem­bers who own Pur­due have agreed to con­sider po­ten­tial con­di­tions un­der which they would re­lin­quish con­trol of Pur­due, and the com­pany would be trans­formed into a pub­lic trust; make a $3 bil­lion cash pay­out; and ad­di­tion­ally trans­fer up to $1.5 bil­lion from the sale of their in­ter­na­tional pre­scrip­tion­drug busi­ness Mundipharm­a, a source close to the com­pany told Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia on Tues­day.

Pur­due of­fi­cials in­di­cated Wed­nes­day that no agree­ment had been fi­nal­ized to re­solve the law­suits, which al­lege the com­pany fu­eled the opi­oid cri­sis with de­cep­tive OxyCon­tin marketing. Pur­due de­nies those claims.

“Pur­due Pharma con­tin­ues to work with all plain­tiffs on reach­ing a com­pre­hen­sive res­o­lu­tion to its opi­oid lit­i­ga­tion that will de­liver bil­lions of dol­lars and vi­tal opi­oid over­dose res­cue medicines to com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try im­pacted by the opi­oid cri­sis,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Tong, mean­while, re­it­er­ated that he is not yet will­ing to en­dorse a set­tle­ment.

“I can­not speak to other states or di­vulge con­fi­den­tial ne­go­ti­a­tions, but Con­necti­cut has not agreed to any set­tle­ment,” he said in a state­ment. “Our po­si­tion re­mains firm and un­changed and noth­ing for us has changed to­day. 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. Con­necti­cut’s fo­cus is on the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, and hold­ing Pur­due and the Sack­lers ac­count­able for the cri­sis they have caused.”

Tong also re­jected ear­lier re­ports of a prospec­tive set­tle­ment be­ing worth $10 bil­lion to $12 bil­lion.

“Nei­ther Pur­due nor the Sack­lers have of­fered to make a guar­an­teed $10 (bil­lion) to $12 bil­lion pay­ment in cash, and any re­port to that ef­fect is com­pletely in­ac­cu­rate,” he said.

Mas­sachusetts At­tor­ney Gen­eral Maura Healey also re­mains op­posed to set­tling.

“The fam­i­lies who were hurt by Pur­due and the Sack­lers have spo­ken loud and clear that this case de­mands real ac­count­abil­ity, and I will con­tinue to fight for that,” Healey said in a state­ment. “It’s crit­i­cal that all the facts come out about what this com­pany and its ex­ec­u­tives and di­rec­tors did, that they apol­o­gize for the harm they caused, and that no one prof­its from break­ing the law. These fam­i­lies de­serve jus­tice.”

Other state at­tor­neys gen­eral, in­clud­ing North Carolina’s Josh Stein, are also op­posed to set­tling now.

Stein said that he was pre­par­ing to sue the Sack­lers for their pur­ported role in the opi­oid cri­sis. A num­ber of other states — in­clud­ing Con­necti­cut and Mas­sachusetts — have sued the Sack­lers, as in­di­vid­u­als, in ad­di­tion to Pur­due as a com­pany.

“Along with many other states, I wasn’t sat­is­fied with Pur­due’s po­si­tion,” Stein said in a state­ment. “A large num­ber of states are com­mit­ted to the no­tion that the Sack­lers need to guar­an­tee more money. We be­lieve they cre­ated a mess and must help to clean it up. Dif­fer­ent states have dif­fer­ent views, as is to be ex­pected. But ev­ery at­tor­ney gen­eral agrees that Pur­due, the Sack­lers and other drug com­pa­nies need to pay to treat those strug­gling with addiction.”

Stein and Ten­nessee At­tor­ney Gen­eral Herbert Slatery III had warned their coun­ter­parts in an email last Satur­day that set­tle­ment talks had dead­locked and that Pur­due would file im­mi­nently for bank­ruptcy, with­out a set­tle­ment in place.

Pub­lic bank­ruptcy court records Wed­nes­day showed no new fil­ings from the com­pany, but Tong has re­peat­edly said he would keep pur­su­ing Con­necti­cut’s claims against Pur­due and the Sack­lers if they were to take that course of ac­tion. He has at­trib­uted Pur­due’s po­ten­tial bank­ruptcy to the Sack­lers’ al­leged si­phon­ing of bil­lions of dol­lars from the firm.

“Con­necti­cut’s fo­cus is on the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, and hold­ing Pur­due and the Sack­lers ac­count­able for the cri­sis they have caused,” Tong said. “I can­not pre­dict whether Pur­due will seek bank­ruptcy, but all I can say is we are ready to ag­gres­sively pur­sue this case wher­ever it goes—whether it is in the Con­necti­cut courts or through bank­ruptcy.”

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