Arizona part of opioid settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma




The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,211 people in Arizona died in 2014 from overdoses of opioids, both prescription and illicit drugs. Photo by Eric Purcell | Creative Commons

Arizona is among the more than two dozen states and 2,000-plus other governmental entities that have reached a tentative legal settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in a lawsuit that accused the company of fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Multiple news outlets reported on Wednesday that Purdue Pharma reached its agreement with states, counties, municipalities, Native American tribes and others in anticipation of a planned bankruptcy declaration. According to news reports, the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, will pay out $3 billion over seven years, with as much as $1.5 billion more coming from the sale of another company owned by the family. 

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, confirmed that Arizona is among the states that part of the settlement with Purdue and the Sacklers. Anderson said it’s too early to speculate about how much money Arizona might receive as part of the settlement.

“Talks are progressing rapidly, but we believe this is the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family,” Brnovich said in a statement provided to the Arizona Mirror.

Purdue plans to begin bankruptcy proceedings in the immediate future. Many had feared that the company would declare bankruptcy, making it far more difficult for states and others to recover damages from the company and from the Sackler family. Brnovich in July asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order the Sacklers to return $4 billion that they transferred out of the company, arguing that the money would help ensure that Purdue has the cash to cover potential legal liabilities.

“We believe our Supreme Court petition pressured the Sackler family to contribute more of their family’s personal wealth in this tentative settlement. Joining this settlement prior to Purdue Pharma filing for bankruptcy is in the state’s best interest,” Brnovich said on Wednesday.

Arizona is currently pursuing legal action against Purdue in the U.S. Supreme Court and in Pima County Superior Court, cases which will likely be dismissed if the settlement is finalized and approved. Anderson said it would be premature for Arizona to drop the suits at this point. 

The settlement comes as Purdue Pharma prepared for trial in a massive federal lawsuit based out of Ohio. More than 2,000 cities, counties, tribes, hospital districts and other governmental entities, including more than a dozen in Arizona, have joined the multidistrict litigation against Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors, accusing them of creating and exacerbating the nationwide opioid crisis through intentional and reckless marketing practices.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Unfortunate that we are letting them go. Essentially the states are saying ‘well ok, we will take your money, but don’t you dare change” when the crime was committed by them.

  2. Can i say this? From personal experience, how opiates are used is the whole problem. When taken as prescribed and only when you have real pain, it is not addictive. The problem starts when taking more then prescribed and/ or taking it to get high. Its not a recreational drug. When used properly they serve a very important purpose. I took many forms of opiates for almost ten years. I no longer take any by choice. I always took medication as prescribed and only when i had pain. I knew that opiate therepy was extremely dangerous to my health and well being. Any issues with my pain in response to medication with opiates i went straight to my Dr.. As i got better the dose was lowered not increased. I never got sick nor did i have any physical withdrawal symptoms. The miss use is the problem not the opiates themselves. With better guidance, opiates will always be an important part of healing. We need to figure out why the world wants to be high all the time. Nicotine is by far more addictive and kills just as many people and has no healthy benefits at all. Alcohol is physical addictive and ruins as many lives. Its totally legal and bought without a prescription. Then there is THC in marijuana. Its got health benefits and gets you high. The worst thing our leaders did in response to miss use of opiates was to restrict the market before realizing the depth of the problem. Now heroine use is one of the number one drugs of choice. Not because anyone wants to be a heroine addict. But because those using opiates could no longer get their drug of choice. Instead of an educated realistic response to the desire to be high. Our leaders, forced many who had no idea the depth of their own addiction to opiates to it. No one wakes up one day and says “today i want to be a heroine addict”. Now the drugs used to effectively treat opiate addiction are restricted to the point that very few Dr want to take on the liability to prescribe it. The money lost in the opiate market is now being forced into the rehab market. Can i say one last thing? As long as everyone is trying to profit from our health or lack there of. Health care will continue to cost more and more. If drug companies had to limit the $$ made in profit to heal or kill us? They just might focus on trying to cure us.

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