Washington – The maker of OxyContin, Purdue Pharma, and its owners, the Sackler family, are offering to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for $10 billion to $12 billion, according to several reports.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, who is suing Purdue and members of the Sacker family over what he says is their role in the state’s opioid epidemic, was part of a group of attorneys general who met last week in Cleveland, where outlines of a deal were discussed.
“I can confirm that Attorney General Tong was in Cleveland last week as a member of the leadership committee of state attorneys general on the opioid crisis,” said Tong spokeswoman Elizabeth Benton.
Benton, however, declined to comment the proposed settlement, first reported Tuesday by NBC News and Reuters, that said at least 10 state attorneys general and plaintiffs’ attorneys gathered in Cleveland last week, where David Sackler represented the Sackler family, to discuss a settlement.
“Connecticut is continuing to aggressively pursue its case against Purdue and the Sacklers,” Benton said.
Stamford-based Purdue, however, said it has been involved in the negotiations.
“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,” the company said in a statement. “The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now.”
Purdue also said it “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.”
Besides the state, dozens of Connecticut cities and towns have sued Purdue.
The lawsuits allege that Purdue’s sales practices were deceptive and at least partly responsible for the opioid crisis, which claimed more than 400,000 lives from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Connecticut was the second state, after Massachusetts, to also sue members of the Sackler family, saying they drained the company of money to enrich themselves.
“They pursued profits – financial gain – over the incredible and frankly, immeasurable, human toll and human cost of the opioid and addiction crisis,” Tong said when an amended suit was filed in April.
NBC reported that Purdue has proposed declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy and then restructuring into a for-profit “public benefit trust.”
According to NBC, Purdue lawyers claim the value of the trust to plaintiffs would be between $7 billion and $8 billion, and include more than $4 billion in drugs that would be provided to cities, counties and states. Some of the drugs are used to rescue people from overdoses.
Purdue has also agreed that any sales from drugs such as OxyContin or Nalmefene, a drug that has been fast-tracked by the FDA and would be used for emergency treatment of opioid overdoses, would go to the cities, counties and states if they agree to the settlement.
The proposed agreement also calls for the Sackler family to pay $3 billion into the settlement, and agree to give up ownership of Purdue.
A federal judge in Cleveland, U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster, has consolidated hundreds of lawsuits against Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors. Polster said earlier this month that he is poised to approve a pathway for resolving local government claims against the drug industry and dividing settlement dollars nationwide.
Tong’s predecessor, former Attorney General George Jepsen, who had launched an investigation with other attorneys general into Purdue, was invited by Polster to a settlement conference last year.
Polster’s actions may have given impetus to the efforts to settle the Purdue and Sackler claims.
Meanwhile, an Oklahoma judge on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572.1 million to the state for deceptively marketing addictive painkillers.
Purdue reached a $270 million settlement in March to resolve a similar lawsuit by the state of Oklahoma.