Purdue Pharma reaches tentative settlement in opioid lawsuit, but some states aren’t on board

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, reached a tentative deal with dozens of states and thousands of local governments on Wednesday over the company’s role in exacerbating the nation’s opioid crisis.

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The Associated Press reported that the agreement would see Purdue pay up to $12 billion over time; the Sackler family would give up control of the company, while also contributing $3 billion over the next seven years and another $1.5 billion pending the sale of the family’s global pharmaceutical business, Mundipharma. Purdue is expected to file for bankruptcy if the deal goes through.

However, some state attorneys general indicated that they were not on board with the proposal.

“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.

“Connecticut’s focus is on the victims and their families, and holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the crisis they have caused.”

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Young said Connecticut, where Purdue is based, would continue to pursue the company if it files for bankruptcy under the settlement agreement. New York and Massachusetts were also among the states saying they were not part of the agreement.

However, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told AP that “this is 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.”

News of the tentative agreement comes as the first trial federal date draws near in the hundreds of lawsuits aiming to hold Purdue and others in the drug industry accountable for the opioid epidemic.

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The suits allege Purdue aggressively and falsely advertised OxyContin as a nonaddictive painkiller, despite knowing otherwise. Former Purdue Chairman Richard Sackler denied the allegations, saying doctors initially gave the drug positive reviews. Purdue has also pointed out in court filings that its products were approved by federal regulators

Purdue is expected to file for bankruptcy as soon as this weekend or next, according to Reuters. The company would then ask the bankruptcy judge to halt litigation while settlement discussions continue. However, states could challenge Purdue’s attempts to have the bankruptcy deal finalized without their approval.

The company is also separately negotiating with the Justice Department to resolve federal criminal and civil investigations.

The clock is ticking for Purdue’s bankruptcy filing — an Oct. 21 trial in Cleveland federal court risks a verdict of damages so large the company could not withstand the blow, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

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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 U.S., which could complicate lawsuits against the family over opioids.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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