BOSTON — Talks between state attorneys general and Purdue Pharma over a possible $12 billion settlement to resolve thousands of lawsuits brought against the opioid manufacturer have stalled, in part because Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is not on board, according to a national media report this week.
Reuters reported Tuesday night that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of September unless it is able to reach a settlement with the states and municipalities suing it for its role in the nationwide opioid abuse and overdose epidemic. Word of the talks involving various state attorneys general, Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, was reported throughout the media last week.
NBC News reported that Purdue and the Sacklers had proposed a settlement of $10 billion to $12 billion to resolve the more than 2,000 suits against the company and family members. But Reuters reported Tuesday that "strong opposition from some attorneys general such as those in Massachusetts and New York emerged last week after confidential discussions on Purdue's settlement talks became public in media reports."
"Their main sticking point is how much Purdue's controlling Sackler family will pay," Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the negotiations.
Healey was not made available to the News Service on Thursday and her office declined to address the Reuters report directly.
"Our fight against Purdue and the Sacklers is about exposing the facts, making them pay for the harm they caused, and shutting them down for good. The people who have been hurt by Purdue's misconduct have spoken, loud and clear, about how important it is to have real accountability," Healey said in a statement. "Our lawsuit exposed the roots of this crisis and we will continue to push for the full truth to be made public and to secure the justice these families deserve."
In June 2018, Healey filed the first state lawsuit against individual members of the Sackler family as well as Purdue Pharma, alleging that they "engaged in a deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids in Massachusetts" and profited from the drug epidemic they helped create.
Healey's complaint alleges that Purdue "created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit" by deceiving doctors and patients to get more people on their drugs, at "higher and more dangerous doses" and for longer periods of time, as well as by deploying falsehoods to keep patients away from "safer alternatives."
A total of 671 Massachusetts residents who filled prescriptions for Purdue opioids since 2009 later died of an opioid overdose, according to the suit. According to Healey's office, Purdue sent sales representatives to Massachusetts doctors, offices, clinics and hospitals more than 150,000 times since 2008.
Under the settlement framework described last week to NBC News and later to the New York Times, the Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructure itself as a "public beneficiary trust." Future profits from the company would flow to the plaintiffs, namely state and local governments that have sued Purdue.
The Sackler family would cede control of the company and contribute $3 billion to the settlement fund over seven years and would add another $1.5 billion by selling another Sackler-owned business. Reuters reported that "several state attorneys general contend the Sacklers' proposed settlement contribution is too low" and that the attorneys general would rather that the Sacklers guarantee $4.5 billion.
Purdue Pharma said last week that it is "prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation" but is discussing a settlement because it "sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals" and "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," the company said in a statement.
Last Monday, a judge in Oklahoma ruled that Johnson & Johnson had to pay the state $572 million. In the order, the judge declared that the company had run "false, misleading, and dangerous marketing campaigns" that "caused exponentially increasing rates of addiction, overdose deaths."
A federal judge in Cleveland is overseeing the more than 2,000 lawsuits filed against the Sacklers and Purdue. Reuters reported that the judge expected plaintiffs to update him on settlement progress this week and that he "wants 35 state attorneys general on board with a deal, a threshold that has not yet been reached."