Sackler family in talks to end ownership of Purdue Pharma in opioid settlement
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Sackler family in talks to end ownership of Purdue Pharma in opioid settlement

Company accused of aggressively marketing powerful and addictive painkiller even as it became clear drug wasn’t as safe as advertised; settlement said worth $12 billion

This February 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy, in Montpelier, Vermont. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)
This February 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy, in Montpelier, Vermont. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

The Sackler family would reportedly give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and pay $3 billion of its own money to settle thousands of state and federal lawsuits over its role in fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic, according to a tentative negotiated agreement described to NBC and The New York Times.

The settlement would be worth between $10 billion and $12 billion.

The prescription painkiller OxyContin, introduced by Purdue in 1996, helped make the Sacklers America’s 19th richest family with a combined net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes. The company has been accused of aggressively marketing the powerful and addictive painkiller even as it became clear that the drugs weren’t as safe as advertised.

At least 28 US states have filed lawsuits against Purdue.

The Sacklers are also known for their philanthropy. Many of the museums, schools and chairs named for them, including Jewish institutions, are now debating whether to remove the Sackler name and possibly return their donations.

The settlement would require the company to restructure under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing which would turn the private company into a “public beneficiary trust,” allowing the profits from all drug sales, including OxyContin, to go to the plaintiffs of the lawsuits.

The company also would agree to give its addiction treatment drugs free to the public. Those drugs are currently under development.

The company said in a statement emailed to NBC, which first reported the settlement, and The Times: “While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals. The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”

News of the proposed settlement comes a day after an Oklahoma state judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572 million for its part in the state’s opioid crisis. Oklahoma reached a $270 million settlement with Purdue Pharma and an $85 million settlement with Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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