AG Healey announces resolution with Purdue Pharma in opioid lawsuit

Boston Statehouse

BOSTON (SHNS/WWLP) – Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey announced the resolution of a lawsuit against the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, a deal in which Massachusetts is expected to get $90 million of a $4.3 billion settlement.

Healey, who filed the first state lawsuit against individual members of the OxyContin maker’s controlling Sackler family, said the agreement requires Purdue to be wound down or sold by 2024, bans the Sacklers from the opioid business, and orders more than 30 million documents related to opioid sales, marketing and distribution to be made public.

The resolution of the lawsuit by AG Healey, which was filed in bankruptcy court on Wednesday night and is subject to approval, requires unprecedented and complete disclosure about the role Purdue and the Sacklers played in the opioid crisis. It requires Purdue and the Sacklers to make public more than 30 million documents, including attorney-client privileged communications about the original FDA approval of OxyContin and tactics to promote opioids. It also requires the Sacklers to make one of the largest payments that individuals have paid to resolve a law enforcement action in U.S. history.

“From the day we opened our investigation and became the first state to sue the Sacklers, my office has been committed to revealing the truth about the opioid epidemic that the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma created, the devastation they caused, and the countless American families they hurt,” said AG Healey. “While I know this resolution does not bring back loved ones or undo the evil of what the Sacklers did, forcing them to turn over their secrets by providing all the documents, forcing them to repay billions, forcing the Sacklers out of the opioid business, and shutting down Purdue will help stop anything like this from ever happening again. This case has also shown us that our legal system needs to change so that billionaires are never allowed to manipulate the bankruptcy system. I am grateful to the families whose strength and perseverance will continue to guide our work to combat this crisis in the years ahead.”

“The opioid crisis has caused immeasurable harm to families across Massachusetts and Purdue Pharma played a significant role in perpetuating that crisis, and I am grateful that this resolution holds Purdue and the Sackler family accountable,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our Administration was proud to support the Attorney General in this litigation and to push for greater accountability for the Sacklers and Purdue throughout this process. There is much more work to do to fight the opioid epidemic and we remain committed to building on Massachusetts’ nation-leading work in prevention, education, treatment and recovery, but we are glad that today’s resolution sends a message that those who perpetuated this crisis will be held accountable.”

The New York Times reported Thursday morning that 15 states, Massachusetts and New York among them, had agreed to drop opposition to the opioid manufacturer’s bankruptcy plan as part of the agreement. Healey’s office said the resolution was filed in bankruptcy court Wednesday night and is subject to approval.

In 2019, when Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that it had agreed to a roughly $10 billion settlement with 24 state attorneys general, Healey opposed the settlement as “incomplete” without the Sacklers putting up some of their own personal fortunes.

Healey first sued the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in June 2018, 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 alleged that Purdue “created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit” by misleading doctors and patients to get more people using 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 between 2009 and 2019 later died of an opioid overdose, according to the suit. According to Healey’s office, Purdue sent sales representatives to Massachusetts doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals more than 150,000 times between 2008 and 2019.

Disclosure

Under the terms of the resolution, Purdue will turn over for public disclosure the evidence from lawsuits and investigations of Purdue over the past 20 years, including deposition transcripts, deposition videos, and 13 million documents. Purdue will also be required to turn over more than 20 million additional documents, including every non-privileged email at Purdue that was sent or received by every member of the Sackler family who sat on the Board or worked at the company. Lastly, Purdue will waive its attorney-client privilege to reveal hundreds of thousands of confidential communications with its lawyers about tactics for pushing opioids, FDA approval of OxyContin, “pill mill” doctors and pharmacies diverting drugs, and about the billions of dollars Purdue paid out to the Sacklers.

Payment and abatement

The Sacklers will pay $4.325 billion over the next nine years, with Massachusetts expected to receive an estimated $90 million for abatement of the opioid epidemic. Thousands of individual victims of Purdue’s misconduct will also receive compensation as part of the bankruptcy process.

Under the terms of the plan, the Sacklers will be permanently banned from the opioid business, and Purdue will be sold or wound down by the end of 2024.

The resolution also requires the Sacklers to relinquish control of family foundations holding $175 million in assets to the trustees of a foundation dedicated to abating the opioid crisis. Further, the Sackler family will be prohibited from requesting or permitting any new naming rights in connection with charitable or similar donations or organizations for the next nine years.

Throughout the case, AG Healey has called out the Sacklers’ abuse of our justice system. In 2019, when the Sacklers used Purdue’s corporate bankruptcy as a shield against personal liability in lawsuits, AG Healey led a coalition of 25 non-consenting attorneys general to fight Purdue and the Sacklers in bankruptcy court. In 2020, AG Healey warned the U.S. Department of Justice not to support Purdue’s plans. In June 2021, AG Healey testified before the U.S. House Oversight Committee about the need for legislation to close the loophole that the Sackler billionaires are using to gain protection from bankruptcy court. 

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