Purdue’s opioid settlement bid splits US states

Purdue Pharma’s multibillion-dollar bid to settle litigation over its involvement in the opioid crisis in the US is looking increasingly shaky.

The OxyContin (oxycodone) manufacturer’s earlier offer of a $10 to $12 billion settlement package that would involve dissolving the company and re-forming it as a trust that would provide drugs and profit share to state healthcare systems has been abandoned, according to a Wall Street Journal report.

Citing internal company emails, the WSJ says Purdue is now stepping up plans to file for bankruptcy after reaching a partial deal with states earlier this week, as it also tries to resolve criminal and civil probes related to OxyContin.

At one point Purdue was proposing bankruptcy as a first step to setting up the foundation, but now says that route could be legally problematic. It says that negotiations conducted in preparation for an upcoming lawsuit in Ohio forced a rethink.

At last count, 27 attorneys general had agreed a “framework settlement” with Purdue and the Sackler family that has a controlling stake in the firm, but at least 20 states have already rejected it and it is by no means finalised.

Those opposed to the deal want to see the company and its backers answer allegations in court that they helped fuel the US opioid epidemic.

The Sackler family has rejected any suggestion they have some responsibility for the opioid crisis, but have agreed to cede control of Purdue and make $3 to $4.5 billion available to back rehabilitation programmes.

Among the states fiercely resisting the settlement is Connecticut. The state’s attorney general, William Tong, tweeted that “the scale and the depth of the destruction, the pain, the death that has been caused by Purdue and the Sacklers far exceeds this purported deal and proposed deal.”

Tong told PBS that the settlement “just doesn’t cut it” as it is based largely on hypothetical future payments from the trust, and is nowhere near sufficient to cover the costs of treating and preventing opioid addiction.

He added that he is determined to drive Purdue and the Sackler family out of the opioid business altogether. Critics are also incensed that the trust plan would allow Purdue to continue to profit from future opioid sales.

Purdue is just one of more than 20 companies named in lawsuits seeking redress for activities that are claimed to have fuelled the epidemic of opioid abuse in the US, which according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has claimed around 400,000 lives over an 18-year period.

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