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OxyContin maker Purdue proposes $10B plan to settle opioid lawsuits

Attorneys general in 23 states and Washington, D.C., have opposed Purdue's proposed settlement, arguing that it isn't sufficient punishment for a company that has profited so much from the opioid crisis. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Attorneys general in 23 states and Washington, D.C., have opposed Purdue's proposed settlement, arguing that it isn't sufficient punishment for a company that has profited so much from the opioid crisis. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 16 (UPI) -- Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the narcotic painkiller OxyContin, has proposed a $10 billion plan to exit bankruptcy -- which would also funnel billions of that money to fight the U.S. opioid crisis.

Purdue submitted its proposal on Monday night in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y. The Connecticut-based company filed for bankruptcy in 2019 and the strategy follows months of negotiations between the owning Sackler family and bankruptcy officials.

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The exit plan is Purdue's official proposal to settle nearly 3,000 lawsuits from hospitals, state and local governments, Native American tribes and other parties.

"We're working toward a settlement that would deliver more than $10 billion in value and address the opioid crisis by, among other things, providing needed funds, as well as millions of doses of lifesaving opioid addiction treatment and overdose reversal medicines," the company wrote in a statement on its website.

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"The settlement is designed to speed the delivery of resources and vital medicines that communities can use to address and abate the opioid crisis."

Under the plan, Purdue would transfer 100% of its assets to a new company and see the Sacklers pay $4.275 billion into a bankruptcy estate. It would also make billions available to fight the opiate crisis via a National Opioid Abatement Trust.

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The plan must be approved by most of Purdue's creditors and federal bankruptcy judge Robert Drain.

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"Purdue has delivered a historic plan that can have a profoundly positive impact on public health by directing critically-needed resources to communities and individuals nationwide who have been affected by the opioid crisis," Purdue Chairman Steve Miller said in a statement.

Many parties involved in the lawsuits have supported the proposal. Nearly half of the state attorneys general in the United States, however, have opposed the settlement. The top officials in 23 states and Washington, D.C., responded that the proposal "falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve."

"The Sacklers became billionaires by causing a national tragedy. Now they're trying to get away with it," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.

"We're going to keep fighting for the accountability that families all across this country deserve."

Purdue began marketing OxyContin in the mid 1990s and the drug for years has been one of the most widely abused painkillers in the world.

In December, some members of the Sackler family appeared in Congress to testify about Purdue's role in the opioid crisis.

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"I have asked myself over many years ... Is there anything that I could have done differently? Knowing what I knew [in the 1990s], not what I know now," Kathe Sackler told the House committee. "And I have to say that I can't."

"I want to express my family's deep sadness about the opioid crisis," added David Sackler, who was a member of Purdue's board for six years.

In November, Purdue agreed to pay more than $8 billion and formally pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges -- which include one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and two counts of conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute. The penalties were the largest ever imposed on a pharmaceutical company.

The Justice Department has said Purdue Pharma worsened the opioid crisis through its aggressive marketing of OxyContin and downplaying the risks of overdose and addiction. Purdue has made an estimated $35 billion in revenue from sales of the drug, which is a painkiller that releases a measured amount of oxycodone over time.

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