Lee County is one of thousands of local and state governments that will benefit from a $3 billion settlement agreement announced recently by Purdue Pharma, one of several manufacturers and distributors of opioid drugs facing a lawsuit claiming they illegally marketed the drugs as safe and non-addictive.
It’s unclear how much Lee County will reap from the settlement, and the lawsuit remains ongoing against multiple other defendants.
A New York Times piece shared Wednesday by WRAL has details about the settlement:
The company is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy imminently. The settlement, which was described by two people involved in the negotiations, involves the dissolution of Purdue Pharma as it now exists, the formation of a new company that will continue to sell its signature opioid, OxyContin, with the proceeds going to a public beneficiary company that will pay the plaintiffs. Purdue Pharma also will donate “rescue” drugs, several of which are in development, for addiction treatment and overdose reversal.
The Sackler family will pay $3 billion in cash over seven years.
The settlement comes scarcely six weeks before the start of the first federal trial in the sprawling opioid litigation in front of a federal judge in Cleveland who has recently issued tough pretrial rulings against the defendants — drug manufacturers including Purdue, as well as drug distributors and chain retailers. Although other manufacturers have already settled in that case, as well as in an earlier state opioid trial in Oklahoma, the Purdue agreement is the first so-called “global” arrangement. Negotiated by a team of five lawyers representing nearly 2,300 lawsuits in federal court, as well as by lawyers for the states, the resolution would end almost all of the cases against Purdue.
But because the deal falls short of what some state attorneys general had insisted upon, they have said that they will continue to pursue the Sacklers themselves. In recent weeks, perhaps in anticipation of legal fortresses built by the Sacklers to guard their fortune, which Forbes estimated to be about $13 billion, more states, including Virginia, New Mexico and Delaware, have been filing cases against members of the family. The states have used an array of legal tactics, hoping for an even bigger payout from the Sacklers and to force them out of the pharmaceutical business altogether. A critical sticking point has been the timing of the family’s sale of its global pharmaceutical business, Mundipharma, and the contribution the family would make from the proceeds. Some attorneys general, including those from Massachusetts, New York, and Connecticut, who have not signed on to the settlement, had been pressing the family to sell the company immediately and to discontinue manufacturing drugs for international markets. And regardless of what price Mundipharma fetched, the attorneys general said, they wanted the Sacklers to commit an additional $1.5 billion up front.
Although Lee County’s lawsuit is rolled together with other governments across the country, multiple other lawsuits of the same type have been filed, and many of them are beginning to yield positive results for the plaintiffs.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners voted to go forward with the lawsuit in 2018, with Republican commissioners Kirk Smith and Arianna Del Palazzo opposed. Smith said at the time that the opioid epidemic “does not have its roots in legal pain medications” and Del Palazzo argued that she didn’t believe a lawsuit would achieve the stated goals of earning funds to provide education, prevention and treatment programs.
Meanwhile, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced plans on Thursday to directly sue the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma: