SCOTUS to decide fate of AZ bid to force opioid-maker family to give back billions

A pharmacist works with pills at Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix. Photo by Johanna Huckeba | Cronkite News

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office expects to find out Dec. 9 whether the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the state’s attempt to force the family that owns a major opioid manufacturer give back billions of dollars it took out of the company before it declared bankruptcy.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the high court in July to accept the case, a novel legal approach that sought to bypass the lower courts. The Supreme Court discussed the matter in conference on Friday, and Brnovich spokeswoman Katie Conner said the office expects to find out on Monday whether the high court will make the rare move of directly accepting the case.

Arizona is part of the multistate litigation against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, alleging that it and other companies fueled the nationwide opioid epidemic through intentional and reckless marketing practices. Purdue, which is owned by the Sackler family, reached a settlement with about two dozen states, including Arizona, in September. 

But prior to the settlement and Purdue’s subsequent bankruptcy declaration, members of the Sackler family withdrew at least $4 billion from the company. Brnovich accused the Sacklers of “looting” the company to shield the money from thousands of plaintiffs suing it over the opioid epidemic, and asked the Supreme Court to force the family to return the money.