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States Say Thanks but No Thanks to Purdue Pharma’s “Insultingly Weak” Settlement Offer

Some states may be ready to accept the settlement, but plenty of others say they’ll keep fighting for more access to the Sacklers’ fortunes

by Emma Ockerman
Sep 12 2019, 4:04pm

While some states look ready to accept a proposed settlement with Purdue Pharma, plenty of others say they’ll keep fighting for more access to the Sacklers’ personal fortunes.

At least 16 states involved in opioid-related lawsuits against the maligned corporate bogeyman of the overdose crisis aren’t sold on taking a settlement deal, according to an NBC survey.

The proposed settlement from Purdue would reportedly offer states $10 billion to $12 billion — $3 billion of which would come from the Sackler-family owners, the scions behind the OxyContin-maker, who would also have to cede control of their company. Purdue would also file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

“@purduepharma has provided an insultingly weak offer to the American people for the #OpioidEpidemic that they've fueled for decades,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wrote in a tweet Wednesday. “It allows them to walk away billionaires and admit no wrongdoing. I don't accept that.”

If agreed upon, the settlement deal would allow Purdue Pharma to skip a blockbuster, Ohio-based trial scheduled for October to hash out the 2,000-plus lawsuits against several opioid drugmakers and distributors. It’d also likely allow Purdue Pharma to avoid admitting wrongdoing in allegations that it spurred a scourge of overdose deaths with deceptive marketing tactics, something the company has long denied involvement in.

“I, along with many other states, will not sign on to a settlement deal until Purdue commits to cleaning up the mess I allege they helped create,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said in a tweet Wednesday.

Stein added in another tweet that he’s preparing to sue the Sackler family directly to access their riches — a tactic already taken on by attorneys general for both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

At least 27 state attorneys general are on board with the agreement, according to NBC News, while 16 state attorneys general, primarily Democrats, said they haven’t yet agreed or oppose the deal all together.

The collective of law firms leading the representation for the cities and counties suing Purdue Pharma and other drug companies, meanwhile, said in a statement Wednesday night that they’re recommending their clients take the deal. And some influential attorneys general, such as Tennessee’s Herbert Slatery, see the deal as more than sufficient. Slatery told the New York Times it’d “secure billions of dollars nationwide to go toward addressing the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic.”

“We believe that this settlement would bring desperately needed recovery resources into local communities that, for years, have been forced to shoulder the devastating consequences and financial burden of the opioid epidemic,” the attorneys said in a joint email statement.

Cover: In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses protest outside Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)