Not everyone has bought into the deal and it will certainly face appeals in court.
For now, the Sackler family, whose company Purdue Pharma developed and pushed OxyContin, which it said was not addictive, and made them billionaires in the process, will pay money — $4.3 billion for individual payments to victims of opioids and addition programs.
Who supports this deal? In addition to the company’s creditors, it was signed off on by a federal bankruptcy judge in New York. It also has grudging support from most state governments, who want to make sure the Sacklers pay something, even if they are immune from future lawsuits.
Who opposes the deal? Nine states have said they might appeal. Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson said it “lets the Sacklers off the hook” and “sends a message that billionaires operate by a different set of rules than everybody else.” The US Department of Justice could also join the appeal.
The Sacklers will not have to admit guilt or any wrongdoing, but they do face other penalties.
- The Sacklers will have to permanently get out of the opioid business.
- They’ll have to turn family foundations over to a trustee who will use assets to address the opioid epidemic.
- They will have to publish documents, including their correspondence with lawyers, about the development of OxyContin and how it won FDA approval.
Publication of that data could be a remarkable development and change the way Americans view the drugs they’re sold.
Criminals? Yep. That Purdue Pharma, where Sacklers sat on the board, broke the law is not up for dispute.
The company first admitted to criminal behavior misleading regulators and the country about Oxycontin in 2007, and agreed to pay $700 million as part of a case brought in Virginia.
But, since the family had already extracted billions from the company, it didn’t have the billions to pay criminal fines, which made the US government just another creditor in the bankruptcy.
Which brings us to today.
The deal does protect members of the family from criminal charges, but there are not currently any of those.
Even supporters of the deal have said it uncovers a kink in the Justice system.
Where is the Sackler fortune? In the years between Purdue’s first and second criminal settlements, the Sacklers were busy reaping billions in profits from Purdue, burying billions in the US and other countries, which would make it very difficult to claw them back in lawsuits.
Are the Sacklers sorry? Doesn’t seem like it. The bankruptcy judge Robert Drain, noting they wouldn’t have to admit wrongdoing in the settlement, said, “a forced apology is not really an apology, so we will have to live without one.”
During congressional testimony in December of 2020, the former Purdue Pharma board member Kathe Sackler said she had no regrets.
“There’s nothing I can find that I would have done differently,” she said.