Purdue Pharma may be forced to file after talks broke down over settlement, allowing public to learn what really happened
A leading addiction specialist has welcomed an anticipated decision by OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma to file for bankruptcy after settlement talks over the nations deadly overdose crisis broke down over the weekend.
No deal is better than a bad deal, said Dr Andrew Kolodny, founder and executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.
Kolodny, a longtime critic of opioid prescribing, said the proposed settlement would have left Purdue Pharma profiting from future sales of the drug that is widely held responsible for creating an opioid epidemic that has cost 400,000 American lives over the past two decades. Kolodny recently testified as a star witness for Oklahoma in a recent opioid negligence lawsuit that ended in a $572m judgement against Johnson & Johnson.
Under the proposed settlement between Purdue and states attorneys general across the US, Purdue would have been put into a trust and profits from sales of drugs including Oxycontin would have gone to toward paying for costs incurred by states and municipalities in relation to the opioid epidemic.
That put states in a position of profiting from futures sales of opioids at a time when they should really be doing what they can to encourage more cautious prescribing, Kolodny said.
It would have been perverse incentive for the states, he said.
On Saturday, attorneys general involved in the talks said in a message to their counterparts across the country that settlement talks with Purdue were at an impasse after Purdue and its Sackler family owners rejected two offers and that the family declined to offer new terms.
As a result, the negotiations are at an impasse, and we expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently, wrote Herbert Slatery and Josh Stein, attorneys general of Tennessee and North Carolina.
But in a statement to NPR on Sunday, the drug company suggested a deal might still be possible.
Purdue Pharma believes a settlement that benefits the American public now is a far better path than years of wasteful litigation and appeals, the statement said. Those negotiations continue and we remain dedicated to a resolution that genuinely advances the public interest.
Against a backdrop of protest against the Sacklers that has seen art and cultural institutions picketed over their acceptance of Sackler philanthropic donations, the wealthy billionaires have been attempting to avoid a trial that could have established Purdues responsibility for the public health crisis.
As it now stands, states and around 2,000 local governments will head for bankruptcy court for the companys remaining assets.
That outcome, says Kolodny, is preferable because under the terms of the $12bn deal floated last week, records of Purdues efforts to encourage the over-prescription of opioids would have been erased.
To see the litigation continue in some point in the future is better because it offers the public a better opportunity to find out about the wrongdoings that Purdue and the Sacklers were involved in and what really happened, said Kolodny.
The family, he said, had not acknowledged any wrongdoing a continuation of a pattern established when Purdue settled an earlier opioid case in Oklahoma for $270m.
The Sacklers have not taken responsibility, he said.
Over the weekend, Pennsylvania attorney general Josh Shapiro, one of the four state attorneys general involved in negotiations, said he intends to sue the family.
I think they are a group of sanctimonious billionaires who lied and cheated so they could make a handsome profit, he said. I truly believe that they have blood on their hands.
That chimes with Nan Goldin, the art photographer who has led a protest campaign to force art institutions to divest the Sackler donations and remove the familys name from their lists of donors.
Goldin described the earlier, rejected $12bn settlement in which Purdue would have gone into bankruptcy as a blackmail.
The whole thing is orchestrated by the Sacklers and very well done, but underneath its highly questionable. We want them to be held personally accountable, and thats not going to be possible with this settlement, she said.
The familys efforts to clear it name continue.
On Monday, the New York Post reported that heiress Joss Sackler had offered recovering opioid addict Courtney Love more than $100,000 to attend her fashion week show.
Love said she had rejected the offer. The Sackler family has no shame I wont sell out to them, she told the paper.
The Sacklers have previously rejected allegations that they bear some responsibility for the opioid crisis.
While plaintiffs court filings have created an erroneous picture and resulted in unwarranted criticism, we remain committed to playing a substantive role in addressing this complex public health crisis. Our hearts go out to those affected by drug abuse or addiction, a family spokesman said earlier this year.
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