Bankruptcy Judge To Consider $4 Billion Purdue Pharma Opioid Settlement

Having faced widespread criticism over its role in helping fuel the nation’s opioid epidemic, Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, first sought bankruptcy protection two years ago in order to resolve thousands of lawsuits over opioid drugs and other prescription painkillers. These lawsuits have targeted Purdue as well as the company’s founder, the Sackler Family.

On August 12, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge, Robert Drain, began considering a proposed $4.3 billion settlement that would resolve all civil action against the Sackler family and prevent future lawsuits from being brought against them, Insider.com reported.

Under the proposed bankruptcy plan, which was originally filed on March 15, Purdue Pharma would be reorganized into a new entity. If approved, the revamped company would no longer be controlled by members of the billionaire Sackler family, and profits generated by the new entity would be allocated towards programs dedicated to abating the opioid crisis, ClaimsJournal.com reported.

The overwhelming majority of groups that have filed claims against Purdue Pharma have grudgingly approved the settlement plan, ClaimsJournal.com said.

However, many opponents of the settlement have expressed frustration that the plan protects members of the Sackler family from liability. The approximately 40 Sacklers who ran Purdue Pharma were estimated by Forbes in December 2020 to be worth nearly $11 billion — even after factoring in fines the company had already paid as settlements.

ClaimsJournal.com explained that Ed Neiger, a lawyer representing individual victims and their families, is planning to tell Judge Drain that “It’s better to approve the settlement plan than to have years more of court battles with Purdue and the Sacklers.”

“Five hundred thousand people have died as [a] result of the opioid crisis thus far. If we go the all-out litigation route, another 500,000 might die before we see a penny from the Sacklers,” Neiger said, who added that, according to court filings, well over 90% of local governments and individual victims voted to approve the settlement. However, Judge Drain does not have to approve the settlement.

Among the last to agree to the settlement were Democratic Attorneys General of several U.S. states. After members of the Sackler family agreed to make company records public and expedite and increase settlement payments — members would allocate $4.5 billion in cash as well as the establishment of a charitable fund — the majority of the Attorneys General agreed to the plan.

Even after the plan, by the end of the decade, the Sackler family's net worth could exceed $14 billion because of investments and interest.

Prior to filing for bankruptcy protection in 2019, Purdue Pharma faced over 3,000 opioid lawsuits, filed by municipal and state governments as well as tribal nations and individuals.

The maximum compensation victims and their families would receive under the settlement plan would be $48,000, according to ClaimsJournal.com. The minimum payout is expected to be roughly $3,500.

According to Insider.com, a disabled veteran has personally written letters to Judge Drain, begging him to reject the settlement plan.

“Your honor sir, I beg you, PLEASE, do not allow the certification of this chapter 11 filing,” he wrote.

Micheal Normile, who filed a claim against Purdue Pharma, wrote in the letter that Purdue Pharma “had destroyed his family and his health.”

Normile developed non-alcoholic liver failure and kidney failure, allegedly as a result of taking drugs made by Purdue Pharma, in order to manage debilitating pain suffered after an injury on a Navy aircraft carrier.

The 54-year-old veteran wrote that the settlement plan is nowhere near enough to cover his medical costs, which run around $3,200 per month for his pain medication and around $7,000 per week for paracentesis, a painful procedure that removes excess fluid from the abdomen that the liver can no longer filter independently.