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AG: State Part of Purdue Pharma Deal

Settlement may cost firm $12B, force out Sacklers

Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery III supports a tentative agreement with Purdue Pharma that would resolve a massive opioid crisis lawsuit but has been criticized by other state prosecutors of being too generous to the drug company.

The deal was reached Wednesday between Purdue and about half of the states and local governments who sued the drug maker over it’s role in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic.

Sources with direct knowledge of the agreement, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said Purdue would pay up to $12 billion in the deal.

The Sacklers, a billionaire family that owns Purdue, would also be required to give up control of the company.

In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, Slattery’s office called the agreement a significant step towards “meaningful relief to address the opioid addiction crisis.”

“This plan, if approved in a structured bankruptcy proceeding for Purdue Pharma, would secure billions of dollars nationwide to go toward addressing the devastating effects of the opioid epidemic and will result in the Sackler family divesting themselves of their business interests in the pharmaceutical industry forever,” said Samantha Fisher, a spokeswoman for Slattery, in an email statement.

Fisher said it is too soon to know how much money would come to Tennessee under the tentative settlement, but it would be far more money than if Purdue descends into “free-fall bankruptcy,” which some attorneys general say likely if a settlement is not reached.

But other state prosecutors feel otherwise. As of Wednesday afternoon, about half the states that sued Purdue had not signed on the settlement and several state attorney generals vowed to continue their legal battles against Purdue and the Sacklers.

New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the states saying they were not part of the agreement.

“Our position remains firm and unchanged and nothing for us has changed today,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.

“The scope and scale of the pain, death and destruction that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused far exceeds anything that has been offered thus far. Connecticut’s focus is on the victims and their families, and holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for the crisis they have caused.”

News of the tentative agreement comes as the first trial federal date draws near in the hundreds of lawsuits aiming to hold Purdue and others in the drug industry accountable for a nationwide opioid crisis.

The lawsuits assert that Purdue aggressively sold OxyContin as a drug with a low risk of addiction despite knowing that wasn’t true. In court filings, Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors.

In March, Purdue and members of the Sackler family reached a $270 million settlement with Oklahoma to avoid a trial on the toll of opioids there.

A court filing made public in Massachusetts this year asserts that members of the Sackler family were paid more than $4 billion by Purdue from 2007 to 2018. Much of the family’s fortune is believed to be held outside the U.S., which could complicate lawsuits against the family over opioids.

The Sacklers have 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.

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