CHARLESTON – West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is part of a coalition that has signed a preliminary settlement with Purdue Pharma regarding its role in the national opioid crisis.
The settlement includes the dissolution of Purdue Pharma and the creation of a new company to sell OxyContin, its opioid pain medication. The proceeds from the new company would go to a for-profit trust that would pay the plaintiffs. The Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, also would relinquish control of the company and pay $3 billion in cash toward the $10 billion to $12 billion settlement. Also, the settlement does not include a admission of wrongdoing by Purdue Pharma.
“Late Tuesday evening, our office, with a coalition of 27 attorneys general, signed onto the preliminary framework of a settlement with Purdue Pharma to enable the State of West Virginia to protect the state’s interests in light of the imminent bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma," Morrisey said in a statement provided to The West Virginia Record. "The framework will allow our office to continue discussions with Purdue Pharma and states about how we might reach an agreement over the company’s role in advancing the nation’s opioid crisis.
“Having a prearranged framework enhances the potential financial recovery West Virginia may realize from its lawsuit, as opposed to the crumbs it could receive through a long, drawn-out free fall bankruptcy proceeding that may linger for months or years."
The settlement would be with the state AGS as well as nearly 2,300 city and county government across the country that have sued the drug maker. At least 20 states are rejecting the current proposed settlement.
Morrisey said the framework of the settlement is preliminary and not the final agreement.
"I can pull West Virginia from the framework at any time, but the price of not participating in the bankruptcy process now would have cost our office its place to influence a final settlement," he said. "This is the best way to protect the state’s interests. And rest assured, I will not sign on to any final deal unless it puts our state in the strongest possible position to fight this epidemic.
“Purdue Pharma must be held accountable for allegations that it aggressively pushed false claims and deceptive practices that helped fuel our state’s opioid epidemic and caused historic, widespread levels of addiction and senseless death.”
Morrisey's office filed a lawsuit in May against Purdue Pharma and former CEO Richard Sackler alleging the company "created a false narrative to convince prescribers that opioids are not addictive and that its opioid products were safer than they actually were."
The lawsuit contends Purdue Pharma proliferated a deceptive marketing strategy with reckless disregard for compliance enforcement. It also alleges company sales representatives routinely claimed OxyContin had no dose ceiling, despite assertions by federal regulators that OxyContin’s dose ceiling was evident by adverse reactions.
In 2001, the state filed another lawsuit against Purdue Pharma when Darrell McGraw was attorney general. That litigation resulted in a $10 million settlement in 2004, but that case involved an earlier version of the opioid than the reformulated, so-called tamper-resistant OxyContin that debuted in 2010.