Members of the Sackler family who own OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are ready to inject more money — up to $6 billion in total — to settle thousands of lawsuits over the opioid toll as the company is trying to reach a settlement with state attorneys general that torpedoed an earlier settlement.
The offer of additional money was detailed in a report filed Friday in U.S. bankruptcy court by a federal mediator who asked the court to give him until the end of the month to negotiate a new settlement.
Under the latest proposal, the Sacklers would contribute between $5.5 billion and $6 billion, an increase from the $4.3 billion they agreed to in the original bankruptcy settlement. The rest of the money would not be paid out for 18 years, and the exact amount would depend on what the family would earn from selling their international pharmaceutical companies.
The extra money is expected to be used to tackle a crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States over the past two decades. Part of it would be controlled by the eight states, joined by the District of Columbia, which opposed the initial settlement last year, even when other states accepted it.
In exchange, family members would be protected from current and future opioid-related lawsuits. This protection was contained in the original bankruptcy settlement, but prompted opposing states to file a lawsuit that was ultimately successful, leading to the current round of negotiations.
The opposing states said the earlier $4.5 billion did not go far enough to hold accountable members of a family that made billions from the sale of OxyContin.
Advocates for opioid victims and their families worried about where the extra money would go. Ryan Hampton, an advocate for people with opioid use disorder, said it didn’t look like the $750 million set aside for payments to crisis victims and their families would increase in under the last proposal.
“The government pot will continue to grow as additional settlement negotiations may continue, but there is no increase in direct payments to families and survivors,” Hampton said. “This is completely wrong and unfair.”
According to the mediator’s report, US Bankruptcy Court Judge Shelley Chapman, any new deal would depend on the agreement of all holdout states and the District of Columbia. She said a “supermajority” agreed so far, but did not list those who still hold.
State attorneys general’s offices contacted by The Associated Press on Friday declined to comment or did not respond. A spokeswoman for one branch of the Sackler family also declined to comment, while a representative from the other side did not respond.
In a statement, Purdue said it remained “focused on achieving our goal of providing the American people with the urgently needed funds for the alleviation of the opioid crisis.”
Earlier this week, US Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain agreed to stay any opioid lawsuit against Purdue and the Sacklers until March 3 to buy more time to reach a settlement.