Purdue Pharma has reached a preliminary proposed settlement with multiple state, local and tribal governments that accuse the company of helping to drive the opioid crisis, officials said. But many attorney generals are opposing it and say the fight is not over.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro vowed Wednesday the case as “far from over.”
“This apparent settlement is a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family’s destruction and greed. It allows the Sackler family to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing,” Shapiro said in a statement obtained by CNN.
David O’Neill, a spokesman for Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, said the proposal “provides the greatest certainty for all Ohioans to receive relief as quickly as possible in light of rumored bankruptcy.”
“AG (Dave) Yost continues to fight to get resources for those impacted statewide and has been actively involved in the negotiations,” he added.
Details of the proposed settlement involving many entities, including Native American tribes, were not immediately available.
Paul Farrell, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the multi-district litigation, acknowledged to CNN that the deal isn’t final.
“We recognize a lot of work needs to be done but we feel good progress has and will continue to be made,” Farrell said.
In response to news of a potential settlement, spokesperson for Purdue Pharma said the company “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.”
The maker of painkiller OxyContin has been at center of the opioid crisis in America. The company’s owners, the Slacker family, have been in talks to settle a multi-district case brought by more than 2,000 states, counties, municipalities and Native American governments against Purdue Pharma and other opioid companies for weeks.
The company has continuously denied any wrongdoing.
Sackler family wants a ‘global resolution’
The Sackler family issued a short statement Wednesday, but did not address the proposed settlement.
“The family supports working toward a global resolution that directs resources to the patients, families and communities across the country who are suffering and need assistance. This is the most effective way to address the urgency of the current public health crisis, and to fund real solutions, not endless litigation,” the statement said.
Attorneys general in Connecticut and Massachusetts told CNN they have not made any settlement agreement with Purdue Pharma at this time.
New York Attorney General Letitia James called the proposed settlement a “lowball” offer.
“While our country continues to recover from the carnage left by the Sacklers’ greed, this family is now attempting to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis. A deal that doesn’t account for the depth of pain and destruction caused by Purdue and the Sacklers is an insult, plain and simple. As attorney general, I will continue to seek justice for victims and fight to hold bad actors accountable, no matter how powerful they may be.”
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said he’s also unhappy with the proposed settlement and plans to sue the Sackler family for more money to help pay for drug addition treatment and other remedies.
“A large number of states are committed to the notion that the Sacklers need to guarantee more money. We believe they created a mess and must help to clean it up. Different states have different views, as is to be expected. But every Attorney General agrees that Purdue, the Sacklers, and other drug companies need to pay to treat those struggling with addiction,” he said in a statement.
Different scenarios for a settlement
A person with knowledge of the negotiations told CNN earlier this week that the Sackler family could give up its ownership and up to $4.5 billion of their own money as one possible settlement option.
The source said the Sacklers would no longer own Purdue Pharma and pay $3 billion out of pocket, plus up to another $1.5 billion dependent on the sale of the company. In this framework, Purdue’s bankruptcy claim is being contemplated as a strategy to preserve the value of the company and pay out as many settlements as possible, the source added.
But earlier this week, two state attorneys general involved in the talks indicated the negotiations with the Sackler family had broken down, according to a letter provided to CNN by a person with knowledge of the negotiations.
According to the letter, the Sacklers had rejected two proposals, which included a payment of $4.5 billion to creditors and the states. No counter offers were given. The attorneys general from Tennessee and North Carolina also wrote they expected Purdue Pharma to file for bankruptcy protection “imminently.”
A Purdue spokeswoman reaffirmed to CNN on Monday that the company wanted to settle and “believes a settlement that benefits the American public now is a far better path than years of wasteful litigation and appeals.”
Previous reports from The New York Times, the Washington Post and NBC news said that the Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and pay at least $3 billion of its own money under terms of the settlement proposal.
America’s opioid epidemic
The misuse of and addiction to opioids — including prescription painkillers, heroin and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl — has been called a public health emergency.
It’s estimated that every day more than 130 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids. Opioid overdoses accounted for more than 70,000 deaths in 2017 and an estimated 68% of those deaths involved an opioid.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose.