Sackler family to give up ownership of Purdue Pharma

STAMFORD, CT - APRIL 2: Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in downtown Stamford, April 2, 2019 in Stamford, Connecticut. Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its owners, the Sackler family, are facing hundreds of lawsuits across the country for the company's alleged role in the opioid epidemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans over the past 20 years. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and pay billions of its own money to settle thousands of state and federal lawsuits over its role in fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic.

The prescription painkiller OxyContin, introduced by Purdue in 1996, helped make the Sacklers America’s 19th richest family, according to Forbes. The company has been accused of aggressively marketing the powerful and addictive painkiller even as it became clear that the drugs weren’t as safe as advertised.

At least 28 U.S. states have filed lawsuits against Purdue.

The Sacklers also are known for their philanthropy. Many of the museums, schools and chairs named for them, including Jewish institutions, are now debating whether to remove the Sackler name and possibly return their donations.

The settlement would require the company to restructure under a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing which would turn the private company into a “public beneficiary trust,” allowing the profits from all drug sales, including OxyContin, to go to the plaintiffs of the lawsuits.

The company also would agree to give its addiction treatment drugs free to the public. Those drugs are currently under development.

The company said in a statement, “While Purdue Pharma is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, the company has made clear that it sees little good coming from years of wasteful litigation and appeals. The people and communities affected by the opioid crisis need help now. Purdue believes a constructive global resolution is the best path forward, and the company is actively working with the state attorney general and other plaintiffs to achieve this outcome.”

News of the proposed settlement comes a day after an Oklahoma state judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay for its part in the state’s opioid crisis. Oklahoma reached a settlement with Purdue Pharma, as well as with Israel-based Teva Pharmaceuticals.

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