Jhe members of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, have agreed to pay up to $6 billion to settle a highly contested bankruptcy plan that will allow state governments and tens of thousands of people to be compensated for the company’s role in the opioid crisis.
The deal comes after years of litigation over the marketing of the painkiller OxyContin, which was a cash cow for the drugmaker and became a poster child for the outbreak nationwide. The company has been accused of helping to trigger these events by downplaying the risk of addiction while falsely encouraging doctors to write prescriptions.
the settlement follows furious objections to an earlier version of the plan that called for a $4.3 billion payout. But several states balked at a provision that granted immunity to some of the Sacklers as well as hundreds of their associates. The immunity would protect them from future lawsuits, although, unlike Purdue, they have not filed for bankruptcy protection.
Members of the Sackler family had insisted that a bankruptcy settlement would not be possible unless they were cleared of any future liability related to damage caused by Purdue’s OxyContin painkiller. This proved to be a key sticking point when the plan took shape, even though court documents revealed how some members of the Sackler family withdrew around $10 billion from 2008 to 2017.
The settlement provides for the payment to be spread over 18 years, with larger initial payments. Notably, the Sacklers are to issue a statement of regret for their role in the crisis to victims — including people who have developed opioid use disorder or lost loved ones to overdose — and may be required to do so at a court hearing. It would be a notable public apology from the Sacklers, who sparked outrage when they denied responsibility for the opioid crisis during congressional hearings.
The agreement also requires the Sacklers to allow institutions to remove the family name from buildings, fellowships and fellowships. This builds on the growing list of universities, museums, and other institutions that have disassociated themselves from the family in response to OxyContin marketing that smeared the family name.
“After years of lies and denial, the Sackler family must now directly apologize for the pain they have caused. They must come face to face with the survivors of their reckless greed. … Museums and universities can now erase Sackler’s tarnished name from their walls – ensuring that this family is remembered throughout history for their callous disregard for human suffering and nothing else,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said.
As for the members of the Sackler family, a court document contained their statement: “The Sackler families are pleased to have reached a settlement with additional states that will allow very substantial additional resources to reach people and communities in need. Families have always said that the settlement is by far the best way to help solve a serious and complex public health crisis. Although the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug that continues to help chronic pain sufferers, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that caused grief and loss to far too many families and communities. ”
Purdue Pharma previously pleaded guilty to three criminal charges as part of an $8.3 billion settlement that also resolved civil charges against the company. At the time, the US Department of Justice left the door open for criminal prosecution of individuals, a step federal authorities have been urged to take since some members of the Sackler family tightly control the company.
“The fight is not over. What victims really want is criminal accountability. That’s what needs to happen next,” said Ryan Hampton, an activist recovering from opioid addiction. and who served as co-chair of the unsecured creditors committee in the Purdue bankruptcy.He also recently published a book titled “Unsettled: How the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Failed the Victims of the American Overdose Crisis,” in which he takes on the legal system apart.
Although the immunity provision raised concerns, states agreed to a larger settlement because it prevented the bankruptcy plan from collapsing and potentially leading to future lawsuits that could have prevented many opioid victims. to receive compensation. If one state, for example, had successfully sued, victims living in other states might not have benefited.
“It was all about the money, how were we going to get the money and who had the power to decide that,” Hampton said.