OxyContin maker reaches tentative U.S. opioid-crisis settlement

Sources say Purdue Pharma to pay up to $12 billion over time

  • Sep. 11, 2019 12:00 a.m.

This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached a tentative deal Wednesday with about half the states and thousands of local governments over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic, but criticism by several state attorneys general clouded prospects for an end to litigation against the company and the family that owns it.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the agreement included more money from the Sackler family, which had become a sticking point during the recent talks.

“Talks are progressing rapidly, but 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,” Brnovich told The Associated Press.

Sources with direct knowledge of the talks say that Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue will pay up to $12 billion over time and that the Sackler family will give up control of the company. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Paul Farrell, an attorney for several local governments, said in a text message that some 2,000 have agreed to a deal that has been on the table for several weeks.

Even with Wednesday’s development, roughly half the states had not signed on, and several state attorneys general vowed to continue their legal battles against the company and the Sacklers. Roughly 20 states have sued the Sacklers in state court.

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

He said the state would continue to pursue Purdue if it files for bankruptcy under the settlement agreement, as expected.

New York Attorney General Letitia James accused the Sacklers of “attempting to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis.”

“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,” James said in a statement. “As attorney general, I will continue to seek justice for victims and fight to hold bad actors accountable, no matter how powerful they may be.”

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 a nationwide opioid crisis.

The lawsuits assert that Purdue aggressively sold OxyContin as a drug with a low risk of addiction despite knowing that wasn’t true.

READ MORE: Opioids to be dispensed via vending machine on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, doctor says

In court filings, Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors.

The Associated Press

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