Drugmaker Purdue Pharma is negotiating a multibillion-dollar settlement with lawyers for local and state governments that would bring to an end about 2,000 lawsuits against the company. They would also declare bankruptcy as part of the deal.
The Sackler family, which owns the company, would relinquish control and contribute at least $3 billion in personal funds to the settlement, which could total as much as $12 billion.
Leaders of the 2,000 plaintiffs in a consolidated lawsuit pending in federal court are seriously considering the offer, according to one person with knowledge of the negotiations. Another person familiar with the discussions said: “I think this is a last effort. If they don’t take this deal, [Purdue is] going to bankruptcy very quickly.”
The proposed deal was first reported Tuesday by NBC News. It has been in the works for months, according to one person familiar with it, and was discussed at a meeting in Cleveland last week called by U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster.
Polster, who has encouraged the parties to settle rather than go to trial, told the parties to report back to him Friday, the person said.
Details about these talks come just one day after an Oklahoma judge found health-care giant Johnson & Johnson responsible for fueling the state’s opioid epidemic and ordered it to pay $572 million to help abate the crisis.
In addition to Oklahoma, more than 40 other states have filed lawsuits in their own courts against Purdue and other companies in the pharmaceutical industry.
Purdue settled separately with Oklahoma for $270 million in March. Purdue is widely blamed for sparking the prescription opioid crisis in the United States with the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, followed by an aggressive marketing effort that persuaded doctors to prescribe it more widely and at higher doses.
Asked for comment Tuesday, Purdue said in a statement: “While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals.
“The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”