HARTFORD — A tentative settlement announced Wednesday over the role Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis falls short of the far-reaching national settlement the OxyContin maker had been seeking for months, with litigation sure to continue against the company and the family that owns it.
The agreement with about half the states and attorneys representing roughly 2,000 local governments would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family. That number involves future profits and the value of drugs currently in development.
In addition, the family would have to give up its ownership of the company and contribute another $1.5 billion by selling another of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma.
Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the deal “was the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family.”
But even advocates of the deal cautioned that it’s not yet complete.
“I don’t think there’s a settlement,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost whose state was among those supporting it. “There is a proposal that’s been accepted by a majority of attorneys general, but there are quite a few significant states that have not joined at this point.”
Connecticut, Rhode Island, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Wisconsin were among the states saying they were not part of the agreement.
“Our position remains firm and unchanged and nothing for us has changed today,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said.
“The scope and scale of the pain, death and destruction that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused far exceeds anything that has been offered thus far,” Tong said. “Connecticut’s focus is on the victims and their families, and holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the crisis they have caused.”
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, in a statement Friday afternoon, said, “We have not agreed to the proposed settlement framework with Purdue Pharma ... We are committed to continuing to aggressively pursue our claims against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers. Today we filed a complaint against additional members of the Sackler family for the role that they played in the distribution of these highly addictive opioids in Rhode Island.”
Opioid addiction has contributed to the deaths of some 400,000 Americans over the past two decades, hitting many rural communities particularly hard.
The lawsuits against Stamford-based Purdue paint it as a particular villain in the crisis. They say the company’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin downplayed addiction risks and led to more widespread opioid prescribing, even though only a sliver of the opioid painkillers sold in the U.S. were its products.
The tentative agreement and expected bankruptcy filing would remove Purdue from the first federal trial over the opioids epidemic, scheduled to begin next month in Ohio.
In a statement after Wednesday’s announcement, the company said that it “continues to work with all plaintiffs on reaching a comprehensive resolution to its opioid litigation that will deliver billions of dollars and vital opioid overdose rescue medicines to communities across the country impacted by the opioid crisis.”
Roughly 20 states have sued members of the Sackler family in state courts.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro called the tentative deal “a slap in the face to everyone who has had to bury a loved one due to this family’s destruction and greed.”
He said he intends to continue fighting the Sacklers, who he said did not have to acknowledge any wrongdoing in their agreement.
“This is far from over,” he said.
Ryan Hampton, a Los Angeles-based advocate for people in recovery from opioid addiction, said he was launching “a massive effort” among victims’ families and others affected by the crisis to urge state attorneys general not to accept the deal.
Hampton said. “We want to see Purdue have their day in court. We know more money will come if this case goes to trial.”
On Wednesday, the Sackler family said in a statement that it “supports working toward a global resolution that directs resources to the patients, families and communities across the country who are suffering and need assistance.”
“This is the most effective way to address the urgency of the current public health crisis, and to fund real solutions, not endless litigation,” it said.