The Sackler family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma will not agree to a bankruptcy settlement for their drug company unless the billionaires are personally given liability protection against lawsuits seeking damages from the firm and its owners over the opioid crisis, an heir told a court on Tuesday.
During testimony in Purdue's bankruptcy trial, heir and former board member David Sackler said that without keeping legal shields in place for his family members, "I believe we would litigate the claims to their final outcomes," The Associated Press reported.
"We need a release that’s sufficient to get our goals accomplished," Sackler said in response to questioning from a lawyer for the U.S. bankruptcy trustee. "If the release fails to do that, we will not support it."
Thousands of lawsuits from states, local governments and individuals have been filed seeking damages from Purdue and its owners for OxyContin's contribution to the nation's opioid crisis. Members of the Sackler family have agreed to pay more than $4 billion to settle the claims as part of Purdue's reorganization.
The deal has the support of many state and municipal governments, as well as hospitals and others, according to Reuters. However, nine states and the U.S. Trustee, the Department of Justice's bankruptcy watchdog, oppose the deal.
Sackler acknowledged during the proceedings that because Purdue marketed the powerful opioid, "we bear moral responsibility to try to help, and that’s what this settlement is designed to do."
The family and company have long maintained that they did nothing illegal in their selling of the drug, a message reiterated by Sackler on Tuesday.
Fatal opioid overdoses in the U.S. reached a record of over 70,000 last year, and the drugs have been linked to more than 500,000 American deaths since 2000.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.