Sackler Family Wins Immunity From Opioid Lawsuits in Purdue Pharma’s $4.5B Settlement

The Sackler family dissolved Purdue Pharma and agreed to pay $4.5 billion in exchange for legal immunity from lawsuits over the company’s role in stoking the opioid epidemic, The New York Times reports.

US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain approved the settlement on Wednesday pending minor adjustments, effectively shutting down the Oxycontin-maker.

The Sacklers agreed to fork over billions over the next nine years to addiction treatment and prevention programs in exchange for immunity from thousands of lawsuits, meaning they will remain one of the richest families in America.

“This is a bitter result,” Drain said, explaining he was frustrated that so much of the Sacklers’ money was stashed in overseas accounts and expressing a desire for a higher settlement. But Drain said it would be harmful to delay the settlement because of the “remarkable” amount of money that will help abate the opioid epidemic.

But several states, including Washington and Connecticut, have already vowed to appeal the judge’s ruling.

Settlement keeps full role hidden:

The settlement means that the full extent of Purdue’s role in fueling the epidemic will never unfold in open court, though the Sacklers agreed to release more than 30 million documents detailing their marketing of the pills.

The company pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for underplaying the risk of Oxycontin addiction and for soliciting prescribers who doled out the most pain pills.

Last month, former Purdue President Richard Sackler argued that neither his family nor the company had any responsibility for the opioid pandemic. Not one of the Sacklers apologized or accepted responsibility.

“I don’t think anybody would say that justice has been done because there’s just so much harm that was caused, and so much money that has been retained by the company and by the family,” Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the Times. “But this is what the legal system is going to produce. So at this point, the question becomes, how can those resources be used as effectively as possible?”

Most states agree to settlement:

Though some states plan to appeal, most of the states and other plaintiffs involved agreed to the settlement.

The Sacklers will have to sell off their international pharmaceutical companies over seven years to pay the settlement, and a new company disassociated with the Sacklers will pay the rest of the cost from profits from its drugs, which include OxyContin as well as addiction-reversal medication.

A separate fund will provide between $3,500 to $48,000 to more than 130,000 families.

Nine states objected to the plan. Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the settlement was “morally and legally bankrupt,” because “it allows the Sacklers to walk away as billionaires with a lifetime legal shield.”

A Congressional investigation last year estimated the Sacklers have $11 billion in wealth.


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