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Cracks in Purdue's proposed opioid settlement as Arizona backs out

Oct 08, 2019
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Cracks in Purdue's proposed opioid settlement as Arizona backs outCracks in Purdue's proposed opioid settlement as Arizona backs out
FILE PHOTO: Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg, 20mg and 15mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. sit on a counter at a local pharmacy in Provo

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The U.S. state of Arizona withdrew its support for a proposed nationwide opioid settlement with Purdue Pharma LP, saying the maker of OxyContin sought to “undermine material terms of the deal,” according to a court filing on Monday.

Since Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection in September, Arizona is the first state to switch sides in the looming showdown over the privately-held company’s proposed settlement, which it has estimated is worth more than $10 billion.

Purdue reached the deal last month with 24 states and the local governments that have filed the bulk of the more than 2,600 lawsuits against the company.

The lawsuits allege Purdue and its Sackler family owners contributed to a public health crisis by aggressively marketing opioids while downplaying their addiction and overdose risks, which contributed to nearly 400,000 deaths since 1999, according to U.S. statistics.

“Purdue and the Sackler family need to take responsibility for their role in the opioid crisis,” said Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement.

Purdue declined to comment.

Last week, court filings from states and local governments opposing the settlement asserted that Purdue steered up to $13 billion in profits to the Sackler family, more than triple the amount previously cited in litigation.

A lawyer for some of the Sacklers last week said in a statement that much of the money was paid in taxes and reinvested in businesses that will be sold as part of the proposed settlement.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York, will on Friday consider Purdue’s request for an injunction to pause the litigation for about nine months. Purdue said it needs time to try to settle the remaining cases.

Purdue also asked Drain to shield the Sacklers from litigation, even though they have not filed for bankruptcy, partly because the family has proposed contributing at least $3 billion toward the settlement.

Opponents of the settlement accused the family of using Purdue’s bankruptcy to shield their wealth from victims.

With Arizona, 25 states now oppose the deal. Kentucky and Oklahoma reached prior settlements with Purdue.

Separately on Tuesday, a Massachusetts judge ruled against the Sacklers, who sought to have the state’s lawsuit against them dismissed. The judge rejected their argument they did not personally participate in Purdue’s conduct.

Massachusetts was the first state to sue the Sacklers and Attorney General Maura Healey is leading the opposition to the proposed settlement.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; additional reporting by Mike Spector in New York and Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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