Purdue Pharma and US states agree to new opioid regulations



FILE – Fake pill bottles with messages about OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are displayed during a protest outside the courthouse where the company’s bankruptcy is taking place in White Plains, NY August 9, 2021. A judge said he was extending legal protections for members of the Sackler family, Wednesday, March 2, 2022, who own OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma by an additional three weeks to buy time to find a new settlement to thousands of lawsuits regarding the opioid crisis (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)


OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached an agreement on Thursday over its role in the deadly opioid crisis affecting US states and thousands of local governments, with members of the Sackler family, owners of the company, bringing their cash contribution to $6 billion.

The agreement follows an earlier settlement that was appealed by eight states and the District of Columbia. They agreed to sign after the Sacklers paid more money and agreed to other terms, including an apology. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil suits.

In total, the plan could amount to more than 10 billion dollars in the long term. He calls on members of the Sackler family to relinquish control of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company so it can be spun off into a new entity whose profits will be used to fight the crisis.

An apology is something members of the Sackler family have not unequivocally offered in the past. And victims must have a forum in court to speak to members of the Sackler family — something they haven’t been able to do in a public place.

The settlement, in a mediator’s report filed in United States Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, has yet to be approved by a judge.

“The Sackler families are thrilled to have reached a settlement with additional states that will allow very substantial additional resources to reach people and communities in need,” reads the apology. “The families have consistently maintained that the settlement is by far the best way to help resolve a serious and complex public health crisis. Although the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug which continues to help people with chronic pain, has unexpectedly been part of an opioid crisis that has caused heartbreak and loss to far too many families and communities.”

The new plan was crafted with eight state and DC attorneys general who had opposed the previous one, arguing that it failed to properly hold members of the Sackler family accountable.

Although the Sackler family members are protected from opioid lawsuits, the agreement would not protect them from criminal charges, although there is no indication that these are forthcoming.

Individual victims of the opioid crisis and their survivors must share a $750 million fund, a key provision not found in other opioid settlements. About 149,000 people have made advance claims and may be entitled to shares in the fund; others with opioid use disorders and survivors of those who died are excluded.

This amount is unchanged in the new plan, but states will be able to create funds that they can use to compensate victims beyond that, if they wish.

Other new provisions include an agreement by members of the Sackler family that they will not fight when institutions attempt to remove the names of buildings that were funded with family support. And additional company documents must be made public.

Most of the money is to go to state and local governments, Native American tribes and some hospitals, on condition that it be used to fight an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in United States over the past two decades. .

Purdue, makers of extended-release versions of powerful prescription painkillers, is the most high-profile company among those that have been sued during the crisis. He has twice pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to his business practices around OxyContin.

The latest announcement follows another landmark settlement late last week, when drugmaker Johnson & Johnson and three distributors finalized a settlement that will send $26 billion over time to virtually every state and government. United States premises. If the latest Purdue deal is approved, the two settlements will give local communities who have been devastated by opioid addiction a significant boost to help them fight the epidemic.

There are two key differences between Purdue’s latest settlement and the previous one reached last year: The Sacklers’ cash contribution has increased by at least $1.2 billion, and attorneys general for all 50 states and the District of Columbia are now in agreement. As recently as February 18, a mediator said a small but unspecified number of states were still resisting.

Last year, eight states and the District of Columbia declined to sign, then appealed after the deal was approved by the bankruptcy judge.

In December, a U.S. district judge sided with DC and the eight holdout states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Judge Colleen McMahon rejected the settlement, finding that bankruptcy judges do not have the authority to grant legal protection to people who do not file for bankruptcy themselves when certain parties disagree.

Purdue has appealed the ruling, which, had it remained in effect, could have frustrated a common method of reaching settlements in large, complex lawsuits.

Meanwhile, US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain, who had approved the previous plan, ordered the parties to mediate and repeatedly gave them more time to reach an agreement.

The new plan still requires Drain’s approval. Appeals related to the previous version of the plan could continue to go through the court system.

In a separate effort to hold the Sacklers accountable for the opioid crisis, a group of seven U.S. senators, all Democrats, wrote to the U.S. Justice Department in February asking prosecutors to consider criminal charges against members of the family.


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