Connecticut Reaches $6 Billion Settlement With Purdue Pharma In ‘Historic Recovery’, Says Attorney General


HARTFORD — Connecticut will settle its longstanding lawsuit against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners — a landmark settlement reached after years of litigation that is expected to net the state about $95 million for prevention and recovery initiatives. treatment to address the opioid crisis.

As part of the nationwide settlement announced Thursday, Purdue and members of the Sackler family that own the company agreed to pay a total of about $6 billion to states and opioid victims and survivors.

That’s an increase of $1.675 billion — or about 40% more — than the amount stated in the company’s settlement plan that was approved last September by a bankruptcy judge, but then went on the back burner. appealed by eight states, including Connecticut, and overturned last December by another judge.

The settlement will resolve claims in the Connecticut lawsuit, filed in December 2018, which alleges that Purdue and the Sacklers involved in the business fueled the opioid crisis with the misleading marketing of OxyContin. Connecticut won’t be able to bring future opioid-related lawsuits against the Sacklers, but that doesn’t preclude potential criminal charges against them.

“We pushed as hard as we could. We used every tool in our toolbox to prosecute them,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said at a news conference Thursday at his offices in Hartford. “I don’t think $6 billion is a small amount for people here in Connecticut. This is not a change for families who are suffering right now. This is a historic recovery.

The Sacklers have denied any wrongdoing related to their involvement with Purdue, but said they support the settlement.

“The families have consistently affirmed that the settlement is by far the best way to help resolve a serious and complex public health crisis,” representatives of the Sacklers said in a statement Thursday. “While the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug that continues to help chronic pain sufferers, has unexpectedly become part of an opioid crisis that has caused grief and loss to far too many families and communities. .”

The new agreement maintains key terms of Purdue’s settlement plan that was approved by Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain and would resolve the thousands of lawsuits filed against the company by local and state governments. Among those terms, Purdue would be dissolved or sold by 2024, and the Sacklers would be banned from any involvement in opioid businesses.

Additionally, Purdue’s settlement plan required the company and the Sacklers to release more than 30 million documents. The new settlement terms will force the disclosure of additional documents previously withheld as privileged legal advice, according to Tong’s office.

Among other requirements of the new agreement, the Sackler family must apologize and allow institutions to remove the Sackler name from buildings, fellowships and fellowships, according to Tong’s office.

Coming about three and a half years after Purdue filed for bankruptcy, Thursday’s announcement came as no shock. Over the past two months, the appellant parties — which also include California, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State and the District of Columbia — have been holding near talks. constant efforts to reach a settlement.

“For the past two months, we’ve been mediating almost every day and late into the evening most days,” Tong said. “As I sat at that table, I demanded all these things that people said we couldn’t get. I looked them in the eye and told them, the Sacklers’ lawyers, that he didn’t get it. There was no way there was a solution here unless they significantly moved from where they were and recognized and acknowledged their role in the opioid and addiction crisis.”

In response to a request from Connecticut, the judge who oversaw these negotiations asked the bankruptcy court hearing the Purdue case to require the Sacklers to participate in a public hearing where victims and their survivors can speak directly to the family, according to Tong’s office.

Tong was joined at the press conference by Southington resident Liz Fitzgerald and Manchester resident Paige Niver.

One of Fitzgerald’s four sons died aged 25 in 2013 after taking heroin, and another of his sons died in 2017 after taking fentanyl. Fitzgerald said both sons’ opioid addiction began after taking OxyContin. Niver’s 27-year-old daughter is recovering from an opioid addiction. Niver said her daughter became addicted to OxyContin after being prescribed the drug following a serious bicycle injury when she was 14.

“I think that’s the best he (Tong) could have done,” Fitzgerald said. “I think there is still a lot to do, but I will support him 100 per cent.”

Settlement is conditioned on bankruptcy court approval, an appeals court overturning last December’s decision to overturn Drain’s approval of the settlement plan, and the “consummation” of that plan , according to Tong’s office.

“We are pleased with the mediated settlement, under which any additional settlement funds will be used for opioid reduction programs, overdose relief medication and victims,” Purdue officials said in a statement. communicated. “With this mediation outcome, we continue on track to continue the appeals process on an accelerated schedule, and we hope to provide these resources quickly.”

Always critical of Purdue, Sacklers

While he touted the settlement as a victory for Connecticut and other states, Tong did not retract his longstanding criticism of Purdue and the Sacklers.

Among his objections, Tong has repeatedly condemned the prospect of states being forced to accept legal protections for the Sacklers as a condition of them contributing to the settlement — even if the family has not personally filed for bankruptcy. .

“The Sacklers want the court to force us to accept this agreement and force sovereign states like Connecticut to waive our claims against the non-debtor Sacklers,” Tong said during a hearing last July of the judiciary subcommittee of bedroom. “Allowing non-debtors to abuse the bankruptcy process like this is outrageous, and Connecticut strongly encourages you to end this abuse.”

As Connecticut and other states now agree to settle their pending lawsuits against the Sacklers and consent to a stay of future opioid-related civil lawsuits against the Sacklers, Tong said he will continue to push for reforms. bankruptcy law.

The state could again register its opposition to legal protections for non-bankrupt parties such as the Sacklers through the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit proceeding for Purdue’s appeal of the ruling. last December to cancel its settlement plan.

“We expect the Justice Department to pursue this fight in the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit,” Tong said. “And I have reserved the right, if this (appeal) goes to the Supreme Court, Connecticut can talk about this issue again and can oppose non-consensual, non-debit releases.”

Tong also said he would support prosecution of any Sackler members or Purdue employees who may be found guilty of criminal misconduct. The Connecticut Attorney General’s office, however, does not have the power to initiate criminal prosecutions.

Although it denied the prosecution charges, Purdue as a company pleaded guilty in November 2020 to three criminal charges of conspiracy to defraud the government and violation of anti-bribery law. . No individual, however, has been charged in connection with this plea.

At the same time, the Sacklers involved with Purdue agreed to a $225 million settlement with the Justice Department to resolve allegations of business and financial misconduct at Purdue. The Sacklers have admitted no wrongdoing in connection with this agreement.

The Sacklers rank among the wealthiest families in the United States, with an estimated net worth of nearly $11 billion in 2020, according to Forbes.

More settlement funds on the way

Over the past year, Connecticut has played a leadership role in negotiations that will provide more than $32 billion in new opioid settlement funds nationwide, including approximately $400 million to Connecticut. .

Regardless of the Purdue litigation, Connecticut signed a $26 billion nationwide settlement last year
with pharmaceutical distributors AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, McKesson and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Finalized last week, the pact resolves allegations of opioid-related wrongdoing against these companies.

The state will also receive $7.5 million as part of a nationwide settlement with consulting firm McKinsey & Co., resolving investigations into its alleged support of efforts to boost pharmaceutical companies’ opioid sales, including Purdue.

“The behavioral health care system has been woefully underfunded for a very long time,” said Maria Coutant Skinner, chief executive of the McCall Center for Behavioral Health in Torrington, at Thursday’s press conference. “For us to do this healing work…it involves whole systems, families and whole communities. It requires resources. What I hope today is that this is just the beginning of that.

The agreement with Purdue allows Connecticut to use a to-be-determined party of settlement funds to establish an Opioid Survivor Trust to directly help survivors and victims of the opioid epidemic.

The final payments in Purdue’s settlement “are spread over 18 years, with larger payments up front so that (the) state gets more money, sooner than in the previous bankruptcy plan,” according to the office. Tong.

“The money will do so much good to fund as much treatment and prevention as possible,” Niver said.

There were 1,361 confirmed drug overdose deaths in Connecticut in 2021, as of the first week of December, according to the state Department of Public Health. There were 1,378 overdose deaths in the state in 2020, an increase of 14% from 2019. The synthetic opioid fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were implicated in 85% of overdose deaths in the state last year and in 2020, according to the data.

“This work continues,” Tong said of his office’s efforts related to the opioid crisis. “We are not finished.”

[email protected]; twitter: @paulschott

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