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Judge Approves Settlement That Shields Sacklers

Purdue Pharma owners will be protected from future lawsuits over opioids
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 1, 2021 5:55 PM CDT
Judge Approves Settlement That Shields Sacklers
In this Aug. 9, 2021 photo, fake pill bottles with messages about OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are displayed during a protest outside the courthouse in White Plains, NY.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

(Newser) – A federal bankruptcy judge gave conditional approval Wednesday to a sweeping, potentially $10 billion plan submitted by OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to settle a mountain of lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis that has killed a half-million Americans over the past two decades. Under the settlement, the Sackler family will give up ownership of the company and contribute $4.5 billion. But the Sacklers will be shielded from any future lawsuits over opioids. David Sackler, a former Purdue board member, had testified that family members would not accept the agreement unless it protected them from lawsuits. From the AP:

  • The settlement. The drugmaker itself will be reorganized into a new company with a board appointed by public officials and will funnel its profits into government-led efforts to prevent and treat addiction. Also, the settlement sets up a compensation fund that will pay some victims an expected $3,500 to $48,000 each.

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  • Judge has "no fondness" for Sacklers. After an all-day hearing in which he analyzed the plan's pros and cons for a nonstop 6½ hours, US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain said he would approve it as long as two relatively small changes were made. If so, he said, he will formally enter the decision on Thursday. He said that while he does not have "fondness for the Sacklers or sympathy for them," collecting money from them through lawsuits instead of a settlement would be complicated.
  • Company faced 3K lawsuits. The deal comes nearly two years after the Connecticut-based company filed for bankruptcy under the weight of some 3,000 lawsuits from states and local governments, individuals, Native American tribes, hospitals, unions and other entities. They accuse Purdue Pharma of fueling the crisis by aggressively pushing sales of its best-selling prescription painkiller.

  • AGs plan to appeal. The attorneys general of Connecticut, the District of Columbia, and Washington state immediately announced they will either appeal the ruling or explore the possibility of doing so. The Sacklers "should not be allowed to manipulate bankruptcy laws to evade justice and protect their blood money," Connecticut's William Tong said. Under the settlement, the Sacklers were not given immunity from criminal charges, though there have been no indications they will face any.
  • "We will have to live" without apology. Drain noted that none of the four Sacklers who testified offered an explicit apology. "A forced apology is not really an apology, so we will have to live without one," he said.
(Read more Purdue Pharma stories.)

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