HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family will pay $6 billion to victims, survivors, and eight states, including Connecticut, and the District of Columbia for their roles in the opioid epidemic, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced Thursday.
The deal follows an earlier settlement that had been appealed by attorneys general, arguing that it did not properly hold Sackler family members accountable.
Individual victims and their survivors are to share a $750 million fund, a key provision not found in other opioid settlements. About 149,000 people made claims in advance and could qualify for shares from the fund. That amount is unchanged in the new plan, but states will be able to create funds they can use to compensate victims beyond that if they choose.
In all, the plan could be worth more than $10 billion over time. It calls for members of the Sackler family to give up control of the Stamford-based company so it can be turned into a new entity with profits used to fight the crisis. The deal would not shield members of the family from criminal charges, although there’s no indication any are forthcoming.
Other new provisions include an agreement from Sackler family members that they won’t fight when institutions attempt to take their names off buildings funded by the family’s support. And additional company documents are to be made public.
Connecticut will receive approximately $95 million from the settlement, which will be used to fund opioid treatment and prevention. The state is authorized to use a portion of the settlement funds to establish an Opioid Survivors Trust to directly aid survivors and victims of the epidemic.
Several parents whose children became addicted to opioids said they were ambivalent — glad that more money will be available for addiction treatment, but upset that the Sacklers will remain wealthy and escape more accountability.
Manchester’s Paige Niver, whose daughter became addicted following a bicycle accident when she was 14 and remains in recovery about 13 years later, said she didn’t want other families to endure what hers did.
“I thought I was being a dutiful mom,” Niver said. “I did what the doctors told me to do. I just kept giving her the pills and unfortunately, that was the last time I saw her sober for a number of years. I never thought I’d see any justice for it, so the money will do so much good — fund as much treatment and prevention as possible.”
The state first filed a lawsuit against Purdue and members of the Sackler family in 2018, alleging the company and family peddled a series of falsehoods to push patients towards its opioids.
Sackler family members have not unequivocally offered an apology but issued a statement of regret about the toll of OxyContin, its signature painkiller, which users learned could be manipulated to produce quick highs. Purdue Pharma had promoted its use for a broad range of pain issues for which doctors previously had shied away from prescribing opioids.
“While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities,” said the statement from the Sackler family.
“We’re pleased with the settlement achieved in mediation, under which all of the additional settlement funds will be used for opioid abatement programs, overdose rescue medicines, and victims,” Purdue Pharma said in a statement issued separately from the family’s. “With this mediation result, we continue on track to proceed through the appeals process on an expedited schedule, and we hope to swiftly deliver these resources.”
Under the settlement, victims also are to have a forum in court, by videoconference scheduled for March 9, to address some of the Sacklers. That’s something they have not been able to do previously in a public setting.
Tong has repeatedly said he has felt a “special obligation to be aggressive” in the case because Purdue’s headquarters are in Stamford. He expressed some disappointment Thursday with the final settlement, even though he said it was 40% more than the previous one.
“I wanted more. I still want more. But I took it as far as I could take it,” Tong said during a news conference. “If we were to continue, we would do it alone and that is untenable.”
The money is to begin flowing after Purdue, which is to be renamed Knoa Pharma, emerges from bankruptcy. It’s not clear when that will be. The last payment under the settlement is not scheduled to be made until 2039.
The settlement is outlined in a report filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, and must be approved by U.S Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.