Purdue Pharma nears settlement with states, cities over alleged role in opioid epidemic

Purdue Pharma nears settlement with states, cities over alleged role in opioid epidemic
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Purdue Pharma reached a tentative settlement with state and local governments in a lawsuit over its alleged role in the opioid epidemic.

Lawyers representing the thousands of cities and counties in a federal lawsuit against Purdue recommended Wednesday that the multibillion-dollar settlement be accepted. 

"We believe that this settlement would bring desperately needed recovery resources into local communities that, for years, have been forced to shoulder the devastating consequences and financial burden of the opioid epidemic," the attorneys said in a statement. 

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Purdue Pharma has been a top target of blame in the opioid epidemic, with governments arguing the company knew OxyContin was highly addictive and profited off of it.

Thousands of local governments sued Purdue Pharma, and other drugmakers and distributors, for their role in the opioid epidemic. Those lawsuits were consolidated into one case to be heard by a federal judge in Ohio in October. 

Under the deal, the Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, would relinquish control of the company and pay at least $3 billion. 

Purdue would declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and then restructure into a for-profit “public benefit trust,” which would exist for at least a decade and to aid the cities, counties, tribes and states recover from the opioid crisis.

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In all, the deal is worth about $10 billion to $12 billion. The settlement does not include a statement of wrongdoing, according to The New York Times. 

According to The Washington Post, 22 states have tentatively agreed to the settlement. But other states are not on board. 

“If Purdue declares bankruptcy, good riddance to this company that helped create and fuel the largest drug crisis in our nation’s history," said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. 

"Along with many other states, I wasn’t satisfied with Purdue’s position." 

North Carolina is also preparing to sue the Sackler family, arguing they are personally responsible for Purdue Pharma's decisions. 

"I allege that these people are among the most responsible for the trail of death and destruction the opioid epidemic has left in its wake – and I will not stop fighting until I am assured that they have made a meaningful and certain commitment to pay for drug addiction treatment and other remedies," Stein said.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused Purdue Pharma of trying to "lowball" with its settlement offer. 

“While our country continues to recover from the carnage left by the Sacklers’ greed, this family is now attempting to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis," James said. 

"A deal that doesn’t account for the depth of pain and destruction caused by Purdue and the Sacklers is an insult, plain and simple."