OxyContin maker settles with 2,000 plaintiffs on opioids

Attorney’s representing over 2,000 local governments, Native American tribes, hospitals and unions have reached a tentative settlement with Purdue Pharma, with the OxyContin maker being held partially responsible for the nation’s ongoing opiate epidemic.

The pharmaceutical giant finally agreed to a deal after months of negotiation that had been proposed weeks ago, according to Attorney Paul Farrell.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Sackler family will relinquish control over the Stamford, Connecticut-based company, which has agreed to pay over $12 billion in damages over a still-unspecified period of time, according to sources close to the situation.

About $3 billion of that $12 billion settlement will be coming from directly the Sackler family's personal wealth. In addition, the family will be forced to give up another $1.5 billion through the sale of their ownership stake in another of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma.

A handful of attorney generals said the agreement will ensure the compensation will come from Purdue and the Sackler family rather than through bankruptcy, should the pharmaceutical company choose to file.

A bottle of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, U.S., April 25, 2017. REUTERS/George Frey

“(The deal) was 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,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said of Wednesday’s agreement.

For Purdue’s part, the pharmaceutical giant says it’s complying with every entity involved in the suit to remedy the nation’s growing opioid epidemic, with part of the $12 billion to be paid out going to overdose medications throughout the country. The company has been received considerable blame for the widespread use of opioid painkillers throughout the country following an aggressive OxyContin marketing campaign that downplayed the drug’s addictive qualities and ultimately led to extensive opiate overprescribing.

“Purdue Pharma continues to work with all plaintiffs on reaching a comprehensive resolution to its opioid litigation that will deliver billions of dollars and vital opioid overdose rescue medicines to communities across the country impacted by the opioid crisis,” a spokesperson for Purdue Pharma said in a recent statement.

Wednesday’s development may possibly indicate the end of tense negotiations in an effort to reach a nationwide settlement with Purdue, with one source claiming over 20 states have already agreed to the tentative settlement.

Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Wisconsin and North Carolina were not among the states to participate in Wednesday’s agreement, vowing instead to continue their lawsuits against Purdue and the Sackler family in bankruptcy court.

Purdue and the Sackler family reached a $270 million settlement in March with Oklahoma in a move to avoid a trial on the effects of Purdue Pharma on the opioid epidemic in that state.

Meanwhile, most state attorneys continue to oppose the settlement, with more than 20 suing the Sackler family separately in state court.

Opioid addiction has caused the deaths of upwards of 400,000 Americans throughout the past two decades.