By Danielle Wallace
Published August 27, 2019
The maker of OxyContin—Purdue Pharma, which is owned by members of the Sackler Family--- is reportedly offering a $10 to $12 billion payout to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits brought by state, local and tribal governments that claim the company is responsible for the nationwide opioid crisis.
State attorneys general and lawyers representing local governments told the Associated Press Tuesday they are involved in active settlement talks with Purdue Pharma--- about two months before the first federal trial over the toll of opioids is scheduled to start in Cleveland.
In a statement, the Stamford, Connecticut-based company said it's prepared to defend itself but sees little good in years of "wasteful litigation and appeals."
"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," the company said.
More than 400,000 people have died across the country from an opioid overdose since 2000—around the same time OxyContin first began to be widely prescribed by U.S. doctors.
Though OxyContin is only one of several other brands of opioids on the market, lawsuits allege Purdue Pharma aggressively marketed OxyContin as the opioid of choice for its low risk of triggering addictions despite knowing OxyContin is in fact a highly addictive drug.
A report by NBC News said the privately held company has offered to settle for $10 billion to $12 billion. The deal would also involve Purdue Pharma filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, effectively removing the Sackler family’s stake in and control of the company, before then restructuring into a for-profit "public benefit trust.
Paul Farrell Jr., a lead plaintiffs' lawyer representing local governments, said all sides remain under a gag order: "All we can confirm is that we are in active settlement discussions with Purdue.
Attorneys general representing several states also confirmed the accelerated negotiations. Ohio Attorney General David Yost is "actively engaged in conversations with Purdue," said spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle, declining further comment.
Kylie Mason, spokeswoman for Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, declined comment on details of any possible settlement but said the state will "continue to aggressively pursue justice — to ensure those companies complicit in the opioid crisis pay for the pain and suffering inflicted on our state."
"Our mission here has always been clear — make Purdue Pharma and the other manufacturers and distributors pay for what they did to Pennsylvania and its people, and put the Sackler family out of the opioid business for good," Jacklin Rhoads, spokeswoman for Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who has staffers at the Cleveland negotiations, told the Associated Press.
Earlier this week, an Oklahoma judge ordered another major company, Johnson & Johnson, and its subsidiaries to pay $572 million, ruling the company’s aggressive and misleading marketing campaign made it partially liable for the state’s opioid crisis.
Purdue Pharma, which was also a defendant in the case, settled a $270 million deal in March to avoid being involved in litigation. A third defendant, Israeli-owned Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., also agreed to a $85 million settlement before the trial first began in May.
The Sackler family has given money to cultural institutions around the world, including the Smithsonian Institution, New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and London’s Tate Modern, but members of the art community have declined to accept donations and have distanced themselves from the family amid ongoing litigation.
Fox News' Nick GIvas and the Associated Press contributed to this report.