Purdue Pharma, maker of the drug OxyContin, has sought bankruptcy protection in an American court.
Purdue’s board of directors met Sunday night to approve the expected bankruptcy request. The company is hoping to restructure itself in an effort to settle all the legal claims against it.
Local and state governments, as well as private individuals, have brought legal action against Purdue Pharma. They claim it aggressively marketed dangerous painkillers that helped fuel the opioid crisis in the United States.
Government studies have shown that nearly 400,000 people died from opioid use between 1999 and 2017.
Purdue’s lawyers reached a conditional deal to settle cases with 24 states, five U.S. territories and other plaintiffs. They include more than 2,000 cities and county governments.
Twenty-four states are either against the deal or unsure about the possible settlement. This may lead to an ugly legal battle over who is to blame for the opioid crisis.
Thousands of cities and nearly every state have taken legal action against Purdue and, in some cases, the Sackler family, which has a controlling interest in the company.
The cases claim the company and family lied to doctors and patients about the effects of the painkiller. Millions of people became dependent on opioids, and many suffered or died from misuse of the drug.
Purdue and the Sacklers have denied the charges.
Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York are three states that oppose the conditional deal. They want the Sacklers to guarantee more of their own money to pay for a settlement. They also have questioned Purdue’s estimate that $10 billion is enough money to pay all the victims.
The Sacklers would give up control of Purdue if the settlement is completed, the company says. It also says the family has offered $3 billion in payments and an additional $1.5 billion or more through the sale of another company, called Mundipharma. The Sacklers have also said they will not change their offer in any way.
“There are only two ways to go from here,” said Purdue Chairman Steve Miller.
He said Purdue plans to argue to opposing states that fighting the possible settlement will likely result in additional and more costly cases. Those will reduce the value of the company and, in the end, leave less money for the victims.
Miller spoke to the Reuters news agency.
In a statement, Sackler family members said they hoped those against the offer will change their minds.
A U.S. bankruptcy judge would have to consider a reorganization and settlement.
States and others are claiming the Sacklers earned billions of dollars from opioid sales while knowing they were dangerous and harmful. The Sacklers have denied the charges.
States opposed to the settlement offer have said they will fight attempts by Purdue and the Sacklers to use bankruptcy to end all the legal actions against the company.
On Friday, New York Attorney General Letitia James said she discovered that the Sacklers had moved about $1 billion to other companies and to banks in Switzerland.
The information James found showed that Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a former board member, moved the money. Her office claims that he used false companies to move Purdue money around the world. She also said he hid money in at least two properties he bought in New York City.
A spokesman for Mortimer D. A. Sackler said all his actions were “perfectly legal.” He also said that the money was moved more than 20 years ago. He said the accusations were an attempt to get publicity for the New York attorney general’s office.
I’m Caty Weaver.
VOA News and the Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
bankruptcy– n. a condition of financial failure
plaintiff– n. someone who brings a case against someone else in a court of law
opioid – n. a drug that is opium based and used to reduce pain
board of directors– n. a group of individuals who oversee a company