Arizona Has Interesting Idea in Fight Against Opioids

State files lawsuit against Sackler family directly with the Supreme Court
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2019 3:13 PM CDT
Arizona Has Interesting Idea in Fight Against Opioids
In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Conn.   (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

The latest lawsuit filed against the Sackler family, billionaire owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, is being called "novel" and "audacious" by the New York Times and "highly unusual" by the Hill—because it was filed directly with the highest court in the land. Arizona is suing, and the state wants the family to reimburse Purdue what it says is more than $4 billion the family has transferred to itself from the company in an effort to keep victims of the opioid crisis from being able to receive compensation. "We allege that the Sacklers have siphoned billions of dollars from Purdue in recent years," says Arizona's attorney general, Mark Brnovich. This happened, per the suit, while the Sacklers "were keenly aware that Purdue was facing massive financial liabilities and that these transfers could prevent it from satisfying eventual judgments."

Other states have made similar moves recently, but this lawsuit was filed directly with the Supreme Court, which typically does not hear cases until lower courts have already considered them. "I do think it’s a long shot," Brnovich acknowledged. "It’s a little different. It’s a little unorthodox. Sometimes you’ve just got to throw deep. ... We don’t have time for this to take years to wind through the courts. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction, and we think they have to act." Per the Constitution, the high court can rule on cases "between a state and citizens of another state," but the court has turned down such cases in the past. Lawyers say Purdue has made more than $30 billion from sales of OxyContin, as the opioid crisis costs the US thousands of lives and more than $78 billion per year, and it is being sued by multiple US cities, counties, and states, per the Guardian. (More Sackler stories.)

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