Purdue Pharma Files For Bankruptcy Following Thousands of Lawsuits Over Opioid Epidemic

Purdue Pharma has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy this past Sunday, September 15th, in response to the thousands of lawsuits filed against the company for their contribution to America’s Opioid crisis. The company is best known for making Oxycontin, and more recently for the 2,600+ federal and state suits filed against them this year.

The specifications of the filing includes a payment plan for the company in order to settle all of the suits against them. The terms include $3 billion to be distributed among all the plaintiff’s over the course of several years from the companies owners, the Sackler’s, one of the richest families in America being worth just shy of $14 billion according to a 2016 Forbes Magazine article.

States across America are responding to the filing with great resistance, and are planning on contesting the settlements in court, the main two leading this resistance being Massachusetts and New York. The states are looking to go more directly for the Sackler’s, due to their excessive amount of wealth, and lack of sympathy for contributing to one of the countries biggest epidemics in history. According to the New York Times, twenty four states and five United States territories already agreed to the settlement after the company has worked within thousands of cities and counties in the country. 

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Activists of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) July 1, 2019 in Paris.

“This unique framework for a comprehensive resolution will dedicate all of the assets and resources of Purdue for the benefit of the American public. This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, said in a statement to the New York Times

The goal of the filing is to completely “restructure” the entire company. The specifications of the settlement include the Sackler family stepping down as owners of Purdue, while also selling their British pharmaceutical company, Mundipharma, as a means to further help pay the $3 billion cash to the plaintiffs over the course of seven years. The entire company basically wants to be reborn, and plans on actually following the restrictions on the marketing and sales of opioids, but it begs the question, just because they’re deciding to start following the rules now, does that mean they deserve the forgiveness of the countless Americans affected by the crisis? 

Many say no, hence the large amount of opposition met by this ruling. The states that have not signed on to the settlement deal, including Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, Virginia, Delaware, North Carolina, as well as the District of Columbia, have sued both Purdue Pharma, and the Sackler family themselves. The Sackler family may be giving up their ownership of the company, but that doesn’t take away from the billions they profited from the opioid crisis, in addition, up until the filing is complete, the family will continue to make a profit from the distribution of drugs from their British pharmaceutical company, Mundipharma.

The resistance to accepting the settlement also stems from the fact that the Sackler family filed just two days after the family was discovered to have wire transferred $1 billion through Swiss-bank accounts, suggesting the billionaires attempting to protect their wealth from the influx of litigation suits against them, according to the New York Times.

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States have also accepted the settlement promise from the company, mainly states who have sued Purdue Pharma exclusively, and not the Sackler family as well. However, without a universal agreement across all states, and considering that in a case as large as this one the states act as the plaintiffs, a federal bankruptcy judge will have to make the ultimate decision as to whether the states who have resisted have solid legal reasoning’s or if they will have to accept the terms Purdue has presented.

According to the New York Times, “New York and other states have said that Oxycontin, and opioids developed, distributed and sold by other companies, laid waste to hundreds of thousands of lives, depleting governmental resources. But throughout the two-decade-long public health crisis the Sackler family transferred billions of dollars from Purdue to shell corporations and private accounts.”

New York could see their resistance brought to court as early as this week, other states are hoping to have the same results.