The Sackler family maintains they’re not responsible for the opioid crisis
The owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma will get immunity from future lawsuits under a potentially $10bn plan approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.
The Sackler family will give up ownership of the company and contribute $4.5bn, and in return, they will be shielded from civil lawsuits over the company’s role in the opioid crisis that killed a half-million over the past two decades.
They would not be given immunity from any criminal charges that may be brought forward in the future.
Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy two years ago facing about 3,000 lawsuits from individuals, hospitals, unions, local governments and states that accused the company of fueling the opioid crisis by aggressively pushing sales of the OxyContin painkiller.
As part of the deal, a compensation fund will be set up to deliver between $3,500 to $48,000 for victims of the opioids.
US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain gave conditional approval of the plan submitted by Purdue Pharma after a 6.5 hour hearing on Wednesday, with the formal decision to be entered on Thursday.
Mr Drain said bitterness from the outcome of the case would be completely understandable.
“But one also has to look at the process and the issues and risks and rewards and alternatives of continued litigation versus the settlement laid out in the plan,” he said.
The attorneys general of Connecticut, where the company is based, the District of Columbia and Washington state announced they will consider appealing the ruling.
“[The Sacklers] should not be allowed to manipulate bankruptcy laws to evade justice and protect their blood money,” Connecticut’s William Tong said.
Purdue Pharma said in a statement that the settlement averts “years of value-destructive litigation” and “ensures that billions of dollars will be devoted to helping people and communities who have been hurt by the opioid crisis”.
None of the four Sackler family members who testified at the hearing offered an explicit apology, with former Purdue president and board chairman, Richard Sackler, testifying that he, his family and the company were not responsible for the opioid crisis.
Mr Drain gave conditional approval pending technical changes to clarify the Sackler family would only be protected from lawsuits involving lawsuits, and a procedural change from non-opioid claims.
“A forced apology is not really an apology, so we will have to live without one,” Mr Drain said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.