Nationally, more than 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses caused by either prescription or illegal drug use since 1999. (Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images)
Fifteen states have reached a deal with Purdue Pharma on the company’s bankruptcy organization plan. New Hampshire is not among them.
The deal moves the states and company a step closer to a $4.5 billion opioid settlement. Plaintiffs in the case are trying to hold the company and its owners, the Sackler family, responsible for their role in the opioid crisis. Nationally, more than 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses caused by either prescription or illegal drug use since 1999.
And the opioid crisis has taken a serious toll in New Hampshire, where the rate of deaths caused by overdose has consistently been among the highest in the country.
Purdue Pharma has made and marketed OxyContin, which was introduced into the market in the late 1990s. Public health experts link the drug to the opioid epidemic across the country.
Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges on its opioid marketing practices, both in 2007 and 2020.
New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma in 2017.
While the states had previously been united in their opposition to the settlement, the release of millions of documents and $50 million more from the Sackler family was enough to get 15 states on board as of late Wednesday.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey pointed to the importance of these documents, which would force the Sackler family “to turn over their secrets.”
The documents will include “evidence from lawsuits and investigations of Purdue over the past 20 years, including deposition transcripts, deposition videos, and 13 million documents,” according to Healey’s statement.
But the agreement doesn’t include any finding of liability or wrongdoing on the part of the Sacklers. It would shield the family from further opioid-related lawsuits, and they would remain one of the wealthiest families in the United States.
The New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office called the current version of the bankruptcy settlement “deeply unfair.”
“This settlement plan allows the Sacklers to walk away as billionaires with a legal shield for life. To add insult to injury, they don’t even have to apologize,” said Associate Attorney General James Boffetti in a written statement.
“The Sackler family made at least $11 billion from Purdue while New Hampshire families suffered as a result of their conduct,” he said. And Boffetti said that the legal shield would prevent the Sacklers from being held accountable in a court of law. The position of the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office is that the Sacklers should pay back the $11 billion in full and apologize to families that have been harmed.
Opposing the settlement will not prevent New Hampshire from receiving its share of the settlement funds if the bankruptcy deal is ultimately accepted.
Three thousand plaintiffs will now vote on the proposal, which was filed late Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York. Voting will close at 4 p.m. on July 14.
Judge Robert Drain is expected to certify the plan after a hearing in August.
The other eight states still opposing the plan are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The District of Columbia is also opposed.
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