A federal judge has approved a bankruptcy plan for Purdue Pharma
, which would protect the company's owners from future litigation relating to the opioid painkiller OxyContin
Despite objections from dozens of state attorneys general, Federal Judge Robert Drain approved the deal
late Wednesday, according to NPR, with a final vote by the pharmaceutical company's creditors expected in August.
The agreement calls for members of the billionaire Sackler family
, which owns Purdue Pharma, to give up ownership of the company and pay $4.3 billion to settle more than 3,000 lawsuits filed against it. In exchange, the family, which is not a party to the company's bankruptcy proceedings, would be immune from future litigation over their role in an opioid drug epidemic that has claimed approximately 50 lives.
“The bankruptcy system should not be allowed to shield non-bankrupt billionaires
Attorney General Maura Healey told NPR last month in opposition to the bankruptcy plan. “It would set a terrible precedent. If the Sacklers are allowed to use bankruptcy to escape the consequences of their actions, it will be a blueprint for other powerful bad actors
In a court brief filed in April
, Healey was one of 24 state attorneys general who argued that the deal unfairly absolved the Sackler family of wrongdoing in exchange for “only a tiny fraction of their independent liability, unlawful gains, and current wealth.”
“This result is unjust,” they said, questioning the move's legality.
Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2019 after being hit with a slew of lawsuits accusing the company of aggressively promoting and marketing the highly addictive drug in order to boost profits while blatantly ignoring its risks.
Purdue has earned more than $30 billion since introducing OxyContin to the market in 1996. Since then, prescription opioid overdose deaths have more than quadrupled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
In 2007, the company pleaded guilty in federal court to knowing about OxyContin's addiction
risks but failing to warn doctors that the painkiller is stronger than morphine. In 2020, the company pleaded guilty to federal charges related to marketing opioid products to doctors suspected of illegally prescribing and abusing OxyContin.
Purdue began making $10.7 billion in payments for the benefit of Sackler family members from 2008 to 2017, after the company was fined in 2007 for misleading the public about the dangers of OxyContin addiction, according to a court filing by the company last October.
The Sackler family has attempted to distance themselves from their company, denying responsibility for the opioid crisis, and have recently launched a website to help counter blame.
According to the website, “No Sackler family member has been charged, and the Sackler family vigorously denies any wrongdoing.”