A federal judge granted broad immunity to members of the Sackler family, long accused by the public of misinforming them about the addictive nature of OxyContin, which they sold through their private pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma.
The bankruptcy plan was closed-doors. Purdue's ownership was forfeited and $4.5 billion paid over nine years. The company will also be dissolution.
Although the agreement will protect the Sacklers from any future lawsuits regarding opioids, it does not provide protection against criminal charges. However, no such charges have been filed and none have been reported as pending. The drugmaker pleaded guilty previously to widespread misconduct, including illegal kickbacks for doctors and misleading federal law enforcement officials.
Wednesday's settlement, which settles approximately 3,000 lawsuits against the Connecticut-based family and the company, does not require that the Sacklers admit any wrongdoing during the two-decade-long opioid epidemic in the country, which has claimed nearly 500,000 lives since 1999.
In documents leaked in 2019, Richard Sackler, the former chairman and president at Purdue, told company officials that in 2008, Purdue's performance was measured by the strength of the prescribed drugs. The family made the most of higher dosages which were also more dangerous for addiction.
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Sackler has long advocated for the company to put the blame for opioid abuse on people who are dependent on its products. They are the problem and they are the problem, Sackler wrote as president in an email, referring to addicts like reckless criminals.
Judge Robert Drain of U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York encouraged the state and local governments in settlement with the family. He stated that this would give victims the best chance of receiving compensation. However, not everyone was in agreement. The deal was rejected by the attorneys general of nine states and the District of Columbia.
Letitia James, New York Attorney General, stated that there is no solution perfect. We can't allow perfection to be an enemy of the good. This deal removes one of the nation's most dangerous drug dealers from the opioid business.
Purdue will release more than 30,000,000 internal documents including communications between attorney and client, that relate to OxyContin's approval by the government and its efforts to market it.
The Justice Department also strongly opposed the settlement, calling it illegal. U.S. attorneys claimed that the settlement violates victims' due process rights, and denies them the right to be heard.
Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that he would appeal the decision quickly. He stated that the immunity granted to Sacklers and their associates and other companies sends the message that billionaires follow different rules than everyone else.
Ferguson stated that this order is offensive to the victims of the opioid epidemic, who were not allowed to speak in these proceedings. Ferguson must appeal.