The Justice Department is seeking as much as $18.1 billion from bankrupt opioid maker Purdue Pharma LP, a demand that could disrupt the company’s effort to reach a settlement with states and localities that accuse it of helping fuel the opioid crisis, the Wall Street Journal reports. The filings the Justice Department made in Purdue’s bankruptcy case telegraph the nature and scope of criminal and civil investigations of the OxyContin maker. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Purdue’s marketing and distribution of opioids violated anti-kickback laws, misbranding under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and conspiracy. On the civil side, they are looking at whether Purdue offered kickbacks to doctors and pharmacies to encourage them to prescribe and dispense more OxyContin and whether the company transferred cash to hide money from creditors.
DOJ valued its civil claims at $2.8 billion, which could be tripled under the law. In the event of a criminal conviction, the government said it would seek a $6.2 billion fine and the forfeiture of potentially $3.5 billion more. Purdue filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in September to try to implement a multibillion-dollar settlement with states and local governments that had sued the company, claiming its aggressive marketing of the powerful painkiller OxyContin led to widespread opioid addiction. The company has denied the allegations and said it is committed to helping alleviate opioid addiction.