15 states reach deal with Purdue Pharma on opioids
At a press conference on Thursday announcing the settlement, the attorneys general of Massachusetts, New York and Minnesota stressed that they had asked the Sacklers for years to admit their guilt and apologize, but that the family members refused.
Government lawyers have said that instead of spending years looking for more money to meet the dire needs created by the opioid epidemic, they have agreed to step back to release funds faster.
Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York, and Mark DeSaulnier, Democrat of California, introduced legislation they call the Sackler Act, which would allow states to sue business owners in litigation bankruptcy, which attorneys general have said strongly support. But even if Congress passed such a bill, the attorneys general added, the Sacklers and Purdue would almost certainly have concluded this case long ago and escaped the scope of the bill.
Under the Global Bankruptcy Proposal, Purdue as such will cease to exist, reappearing as a new company that would produce limited amounts of OxyContin and overdose reversal drugs. It would be overseen by an appointed council. Profits would initiate payments to funds for remote complainants that would primarily support drug treatment and prevention programs.
The lawyers involved in the negotiations stressed the importance of the repository of public documents, which is almost unprecedented in its breadth and depth. Although Purdue has already produced 13 million documents during the litigation, it will now add 20 million more. The scope of documents from this one company rivals that disclosed by the tobacco industry as a whole, a much-desired consequence of the Big Tobacco litigation some 20 years earlier.
The Purdue documents will include depositions, emails and letters dating back two decades. They are expected to reveal granular details of Purdue’s behind-the-scenes contacts with federal investigators and Food and Drug Administration officials as the company avoided tougher penalties for encouraging turbocharged sales that promoted OxyContin as effective and not addictive. Experts predict that the thoughts and mandates of Dr Richard Sackler, former President and CEO of Purdue, would also be laid bare.
During Thursday’s briefing, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, who was the first to prosecute individual Sacklers, said the treasure trove of documents was a promise kept to the families of opioid victims. “It will tell the whole story, all the conversations, all the talk, all the planning, all the ways they were going to make money and escape liability and regulation,” she said.