On September 1, a U.S. Bankruptcy judge approved a proposal that resolved 20 years of litigation and 3,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, a company blamed for playing an outsized role in the opioid epidemic and run for seven decades by the Sackler family, which is reported to be worth nearly $11 billion.
With the approval, the Sacklers will pay $4.5 billion from the family’s personal fortune over nine years and will relinquish control of the company to a government-run entity.
Some of the people personally affected by the opioid epidemic, which has killed approximately 500,000 Americans over the last two decades, are dismayed that as part of the settlement and restructuring plan, the Sackler family and many of its interests will be granted broad immunity from future opioid lawsuits.
Approximately 40 members of the Sackler family served in executive positions at Purdue Pharma, maker of Oxycontin, the painkiller at the center of the opioid lawsuits.
Under the restructuring proposal, Oxycontin will still be manufactured, but none of the profits will enrich the Sacklers. Future proceeds will be allocated towards programs that will help abate opioid addiction.
Purdue Pharma twice pleaded guilty to federal charges, most recently in November 2020. Addiction experts and plaintiff's lawyers have accused Purdue Pharma of helping to drive the opioid crisis. Charges against the company included conspiracy to defraud the United States, violating anti-kickback laws, and marketing Oxycontin to doctors suspected of writing illicit prescriptions, AddictionCenter.com reported.
None of the approximately 3,000 lawsuits against Purdue Pharma ever went to trial. In 2007, the federal government accused the company of misbranding OxyContin. To resolve the claims, Purdue Pharma settled the federal charges for over $600 million.
The company previously settled with several states, notably with Kentucky in 2015 for $24 million and with Oklahoma in 2019 for $270 million.
Purdue Pharma continued to promote Oxycontin to doctors until 2018, one year before filing for bankruptcy protection.
A few days before filing for bankruptcy, members of the Sackler family who ran Purdue Pharma were ordered to pay New York State $3 billion. That order was rescinded after Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
In addition to members of the Sacklers, foundations, trusts, business associates, attorneys, lobbyists, Purdue subsidiaries and other entities associated with the family will be granted immunity, The Defender reported.