October 8, 2019

Arizona now has misgivings about Purdue opioid settlement

The attorney general says the maker of OxyContin has worked to undermine terms of the settlement.

brnovich 2019 Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Phoenix, January 2019.
Gage Skidmore/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Arizona's attorney general is having misgivings about agreeing to Purdue Pharma's proposal to settle litigation over the opioid crisis.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, said in a court filing late Monday that the OxyContin maker has "sought to undermine material terms of the deal."

He did not specify how he alleges the company has done that.

But in a statement Tuesday, Brnovich said, "It's in everyone's best interest to secure a just and timely settlement. Purdue and the Sackler family need to take responsibility for their role in the opioid crisis."

Brnovich agreed to the Purdue settlement right before the company filed for bankruptcy protection as part of its settlement deal. The states that agreed to the deal, which could be worth $12 billion over time, were not supposed to object to the company's request to halt litigation against it and members of the Sackler family that own the Stamford, Connecticut-based firm.

Purdue has said in court that the Sacklers may not be able or willing to kick in the $3 billion to $4.5 billion they've agreed to pay in the settlement if they must continue to face litigation across the country.

Purdue declined to comment on the Arizona filing, as did the office of the attorney general for Texas, which played a key role in reaching the settlement.

Brnovich has not gone as far as backing out of the tentative settlement. His spokesman, Ryan Anderson, said the state is "not interested in renegotiating terms that we've already agreed upon."

He made waves in July, when he asked the U.S. Supreme Court to find that some of the Sackler money was fraudulently transferred from Purdue and to force family members to return it to the company so it could be part of any settlement with or judgment against the company.

The court has not said whether it will consider the request. Brnovich said in his court filing that an order from the bankruptcy court should not stop the nation's top court from considering that.

Last week, the attorneys general for the 24 states that declined to sign onto the settlement told a judge that suits against Sackler family members should not be stopped, as did lawyers representing more than 500 local and tribal governments across the country.

If approved, the settlement could end more than 2,600 lawsuits against the company over the toll of opioids.

The objectors say the proposed settlement would not do enough to hold members of the Sackler family accountable. Several have also said the amount the family has agreed to pay as part of the deal is not enough.

A court filing last week said the family had been paid $12 billion to $13 billion by the company. A lawyer for some family members noted that the amount was lower than that after taxes and reinvestment.

Critics of the settlement have also objected to the company's request to pay $38 million in bonuses and severance packages for employees. Amid the objections, the company has asked a judge not to consider that request at a hearing scheduled for Thursday but rather to wait until next month.

By posting comments, you agree to our
AZPM encourages comments, but comments that contain profanity, unrelated information, threats, libel, defamatory statements, obscenities, pornography or that violate the law are not allowed. Comments that promote commercial products or services are not allowed. Comments in violation of this policy will be removed. Continued posting of comments that violate this policy will result in the commenter being banned from the site.

By submitting your comments, you hereby give AZPM the right to post your comments and potentially use them in any other form of media operated by this institution.
Arizona Public Media broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents. Arizona Public Media and AZPM are registered trademarks of the Arizona Board of Regents.
The University of Arizona