Some states, towns skeptical over proposed opioid settlement
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — An offer from OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family to settle some 2,000 lawsuits over their contribution to the national opioid crisis is receiving growing pushback from state and local officials who say the proposed deal doesn’t include enough money or accountability.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong on Friday called for the company, which is headquartered in the state, to be forced out of the opioid business altogether.
“At a minimum, Connecticut demands that Purdue be broken up and shut down, and that its assets be liquidated,” Tong said in a statement.
He said he wants the controlling Sackler family to pay billions of dollars “they siphoned out of Purdue,” with the money going toward addiction research and treatment.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she wants any settlement to include more money than the $10 billion to $12 billion offered by Purdue and the $3 billion offered from the Sacklers, an amount that represents just a portion of the family’s fortune. Much of their money which appears to be overseas.
“We owe it to families in Massachusetts and across the country to hold Purdue and the Sacklers accountable, ensure that the evidence of what they did is made public, and make them pay for the damage they have caused,” Healey said in a statement.
The company and the family did not answer questions Friday about criticism of the settlement proposal, under which Purdue would file for bankruptcy and transform itself into a “public benefit trust corporation.” The trust’s profits from drug sales would go to the plaintiffs under the company’s settlement offer.
Purdue also has been considering filing for bankruptcy protection on its own, an action that would upend the settlement talks involving state attorneys general and lawyers representing nearly local governments around the country.
Over the past few years, nearly every state and about 2,000 local and tribal governments have sued over the toll of the opioid epidemic. Purdue is a defendant in most of the lawsuits and members of the Sackler family are named in several, including lawsuits in Connecticut and Massachusetts.
The federal litigation is being overseen by a judge in Cleveland, who has been pushing for a national settlement before the first trial starts in October. That is proving difficult.
As details of Purdue’s settlement offer became public this week, some local government officials said it wasn’t good enough.
In Delbarton, West Virginia, Mayor Elmer Spence’s son and nephew are two of the more than 400,000 people in the U.S. who have died from opioid overdoses since 2000. If Purdue’s offer of a settlement is accepted, the town would receive less than $50,000.
“That’s a drop in the bucket for what it’s really cost this community,” he said of a crisis that has driven up costs for police, ambulances and courts.
He said residents in the town of roughly 500 people have grown accustomed to losing loved ones: “I mean it’s really a slap in the face.”