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Purdue Pharma May Be Willing to Shell Out $10-12 Billion to Skip a Huge Opioid Trial

The drugmaker behind OxyContin is reportedly in settlement talks with the thousands of cities, states and tribes suing over its role in the opioid crisis

by Emma Ockerman
Aug 28 2019, 2:40pm

Purdue Pharma might be ready to make a deal to avoid trial.

The embattled drug behemoth behind OxyContin is reportedly in settlement talks with the thousands of cities, states, and tribes suing over Purdue’s role in the opioid crisis, and might ultimately reach an agreement worth up to $12 billion.

Under a proposed settlement agreement — the details of which were first reported by NBC News, based on anonymous sourcing — the company has floated paying out between $10 billion and $12 billion to end more than 2,000 opioid-related lawsuits against it. Those lawsuits, many of which have been combined into one, massive case before a judge in Cleveland, name several drug companies aside from Purdue Pharma. A trial is still set for late October, although the judge in that case has made it clear he prefers the companies and plaintiffs reach a global settlement.

Purdue Pharma coming to the table could spur something of a domino effect. After all, Purdue settled with Oklahoma for $270 million to avoid a widely watched opioid trial in March. By May, Teva Pharmaceutical — another defendant in the Oklahoma lawsuit — had settled out of court with an $85 million payout. Only Johnson & Johnson continued to trial, and Oklahoma reached a massive $572 million verdict this week. Johnson & Johnson is appealing, and is still set to go to trial in the Ohio case in October.

However, while Purdue’s potential settlement would allow it to avoid what’s sure to be a knockout, media blitz of a trial in Cleveland, it wouldn’t be easy for the company and the prolific family behind it: the Sacklers. Purdue would file for bankruptcy in the agreement, and emerge again as a public benefit trust corporation, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Sackler family would also have to cede ownership of a company that’s been in their family for generations now. Richard Sackler, the former head of the company, said in a newly released deposition that he didn’t know how much his family made off Oxy, although he’s been accused of promoting the drug’s aggressive marketing efforts.

Purdue has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and has criticized the merits of the many lawsuits against it in the past.

“While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”

Cover: A skeleton of pill bottles stands with protesters outside a courthouse on Friday, Aug. 2, 2019, in Boston, where a judge was to hear arguments in Massachusetts' lawsuit against Purdue Pharma over its role in the national drug epidemic. The skeleton was created by Frank Huntley, of Worcester, Mass., from prescriptions he said he received while addicted to opioids. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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