HARTFORD, Conn. — A tentative settlement announced Wednesday over the role Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis falls short of the far-reaching national settlement the OxyContin maker had been seeking for months, with litigation sure to continue against the company and the family that owns it.
The agreement with about half the states and attorneys representing roughly 2,000 local governments would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs currently in development. In addition, the family would have to give up its ownership of the company and contribute another $1.5 billion by selling another of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma.
Several attorneys general said the agreement was a better way to ensure compensation from Purdue and the Sacklers than taking their chances if Purdue files for bankruptcy on its own.
Rome City and Floyd County — along with Cartersville, Chattooga County and Whitfield County — joined in a 2018 lawsuit that was consolidated into this multi-district litigation case being heard in U.S. District Court in Ohio.
Opioid addiction has contributed to the deaths of some 400,000 Americans over the past two decades, hitting many rural communities particularly hard.
The lawsuits against Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue paint it as a particular villain in the crisis. They say the company’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin downplayed addiction risks and led to more widespread opioid prescribing, even though only a sliver of the opioid painkillers sold in the U.S. were its products.
The tentative agreement and expected bankruptcy filing would remove Purdue from the first federal trial over the opioids epidemic, scheduled to begin next month in Ohio.
Even with Wednesday’s development, many states have not signed on. Several state attorneys general vowed to continue their legal battles against the company in bankruptcy court and the Sacklers. Roughly 20 states have sued members of the Sackler family in state courts.
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin are among the states saying they were not part of the agreement.
How any money from the settlement will be divided among all the entities is not entirely clear. Nevertheless, the attorneys representing the local governments issued a statement saying they recommended the governments agree to the deal as a way to bring relief to their communities.
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.