Colorado AG Weiser among attorneys general to reject Purdue Pharma bankruptcy plan

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Published Thursday, March 18, 2021
by Robert Davis | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) - Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser joined 23 other states on Tuesday to reject a bankruptcy plan from Purdue Pharma that would pay out billions in settlements.

According to the plan, which was submitted in bankruptcy court Monday, the Sackler family--who own the company--would pay $500 million up front to settle thousands of personal injury cases. The family would then pay $4.2 billion in installments over the next decade. In total, the plan would cost over $10 billion.

The Sackler family said in a statement that the plan "marks an important step toward providing help to those who suffer from addiction, and we hope this proposed resolution will signal the beginning of a far-reaching effort to deliver assistance where it is needed."

The plan still needs the approval of the federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York before it is enforceable.

Weiser said he's "disappointed" by the plan, adding that "it falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve."

"Our states investigated Purdue and the Sacklers and filed the lawsuits to hold this criminal enterprise accountable," the attorneys general said in a joint statement.

"During the bankruptcy, our states worked together, across party lines, to force Purdue to turn over millions of pages of evidence and to question the Sacklers under oath. We also joined with every state and thousands of cities and towns to ensure that every dollar recovered is dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis," they continued.

Purdue is the maker of OxyContin, a prescription painkiller used to treat severe pain. The Food and Drug Administration says the drug is addictive even if taken as prescribed by a doctor.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), drug overdoses from opioids are four times higher now than in 1999. Similarly, over 450,000 people in the U.S. died from using prescription or illicit opioids over the same timeframe, known now as the opioid epidemic.

The company was originally sued by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in 2018, thus setting off a flood of claims by other states accusing the company of illegally marketing an addictive prescription medication.

In 2019, the company settled nearly two dozen state claims for $12 billion. Colorado was not part of the settlement.

At the time, Weiser said the settlement did not "adequately addresses the harm that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused to communities and individuals in Colorado by contributing to the opioid crisis," the Colorado Sun reported.

A similar case against global consulting firm McKinsey & Company, who helped boost Purdue's opioid sales, was settled for $573 million in February. Colorado will receive $10 million from the case.

Purdue Pharma also plead guilty and settled its federal case with the U.S. Justice Department for $8.3 billion in October 2020.

Healey said Tuesday that the plan the Sackler's submitted to the court this week is "an insult."

"The Sacklers made choices that caused so much of this epidemic. They had control over Purdue Pharma's operations, and they oversaw the schemes to promote opioids. The executives we named in our lawsuit were at the center of it," she added.

The attorneys general jointly called on the Sacklers to increase their settlement offer, including adding funding for states to help fight the opioid epidemic and provide greater transparency to the public of the extent of the company's misconduct.

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