Purdue Pharma and US states agree to new opioid regulations

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma reached an agreement on Thursday over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis which includes virtually every US state and thousands of local governments, with members of the company-owning Sackler family increasing their cash contribution up to $6 billion.

The agreement follows a previous settlement which had been appealed by eight states and the District of Columbia. They agreed to sign after the Sacklers paid more money — including some that only those jurisdictions would control — and agreed to other terms, including an apology. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil suits.

In total, the plan could reach more than 10 billion dollars over time. 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, via videoconference, in court to speak to members of the Sackler family — something they haven’t been able to do in a public place.

The settlement, described in a report filed with the US bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, still needs to be approved by a judge.

“The Sackler families are pleased 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. “Families have always said that the settlement is by far the best way to help solve a serious and complex public health crisis. Although the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug that continues to help chronic pain sufferers, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that caused grief 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.

Families of overdose victims view the settlement in different ways.

For Suzanne Domagala, of Millville, Delaware, even a modest payment to victims of the Sackler family is important, although she is still upset that the wealthy family is protected from lawsuits.

Domagala’s son, Zach, a Marine Corps reservist, got hooked after injuring his shoulder during boot camp. When he died in 2017, she said, she didn’t have the money to bury him and it took her a few years before she could afford a headstone.

“That’s why when you look at the costs of these things, money is such an insignificant thing,” she said, “but it’s the only way to demand justice.”

Ed Bisch, whose 18-year-old son died of an overdose 20 years ago, is glad the states pushed Sackler family members to pay more, but still called the settlement “horrible business” because so many relatives who have buried loved ones won’t see the money – and the Sacklers will still be rich and free.

“Guess what? They still made billions and billions of dollars,” he said. “Without any jail time, where is the deterrence? We lost two generations to their greed.

The agreement would not protect the family members from criminal charges – although there are no indications that these are forthcoming.

Individual victims 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. .

“We are pleased with the mediated settlement, under which all additional settlement funds will be used for opioid reduction programs, overdose relief medication and victims,” ​​Purdue said in a statement. “With this mediation outcome, we continue on track to continue the appeals process on an accelerated schedule, and we hope to provide these resources quickly.”

Kentucky and Oklahoma are not part of the deal because they both have previous agreements with Purdue.

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 which will send $26 billion over time to virtually every state and local government across the United States

If Purdue’s latest 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 been increased by at least $1.2 billion, and state attorneys general and the District of Columbia now agree.

As recently as February 18, a mediator said a small but unspecified number of states were still resisting.

Last year, all eight states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – and DC refused to sign, then most of them appealed after the approval of the approval by the bankruptcy judge.

In December, a US District Judge sided with the nine resisters. The judge, Colleen McMahon, rejected the settlement, finding that bankruptcy judges lack the power to grant legal protection to people who do not file for bankruptcy themselves when certain parties disagree.

Purdue 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.