Twenty-five state attorneys general, as well as a growing group of activists and advocates, have sought to block an attempt by the Sackler family, owners of PurduePharma, the maker of Oxycontin, to obtain immunity from future opioid lawsuits in exchange for forfeited control of their bankrupt drug company and $4.2 billion from their private fortunes, reports NPR. A negotiated settlement could pre-empt years of costly litigation – the Sacklers deny any wrongdoing – and might accelerate financial aid to communities struggling to recover from an opioid epidemic that has already cost more than 450,000 lives. Judge Robert Drain who is presiding over the case in White Plains, N.Y., has suggested such a deal may be desirable and achievable along these broad lines.
Late last week, the group of state attorneys general filed a new brief describing the proposed settlement as “unprecedented,” “unjust” and “unconfirmable as a matter of law.” Attorneys representing local and state governments, native tribes and opioid activists have also filed briefs raising legal and ethical concerns about the plan and a division of the Justice Department that oversees bankruptcy cases also filed a brief questioning whether the bankruptcy court has the “authority and jurisdiction” to approve such a plan. The Sacklers are negotiating to use a rare and controversial bankruptcy procedure known as “non-consensual third-party releases,” that would protect themselves and their assets from lawsuits linked to the opioid crisis.