Purdue Wins Short Pause from Lawsuits
Controversial US opioid producer Purdue Pharma and its founders, the Sackler family, have won a temporary litigation pause to facilitate progress in restructuring the company into a public benefit trust.
On the sidelines, Purdue’s owners are trying to wrap up thousands of lawsuits against them and the drugmaker into single deal worth $10-12 billion — the cases are bundled in a court in Cleveland, Ohio. These plans hit a snag as the desire of some plaintiffs — in particular US states struggling with the nation’s opioid crisis – to see cash quickly threatened to drain money from the Oxycontin maker’s payout fund.
In a series of court filings in early October, expressing opposition to the litigation break, several plaintiffs called it a “firebreak” strategy to shield the family’s wealth. Concerns also were raised by claims that the Sacklers had pulled money out of Purdue for their own benefit, amid anger over the drugmaker’s request to pay bonuses worth $34 billion to its executives.
To avert an interruption in the Chapter 11 proceedings and in the hope of getting more players on board for the proposed settlement — which has still not been approved — the bankruptcy court granted Purdue’s petition for the litigation recess. All legal proceedings have now been suspended until Nov. 6.
The proposed deal is believed to be the largest of its kind ever agreed in the pharmaceutical industry. The Sackler family is contributing $3 billion to the kitty, to be paid out over seven years. Reuters has quoted bankruptcy judge Robert Drain as saying he hopes the temporary stay would allow Purdue and the family to work out an information-sharing agreement to facilitate the settlement.
Under the plans being discussed, Purdue would be restructured as a trust and all profits from drug sales, along with other proceeds, subsequently would go to the plaintiffs suing the drugmaker for causing or contributing to their addiction. Additionally, Purdue would provide more than $4 billion in free drugs, including overdose-reversal medicines.
Also part of the settlement would be the expected $1.5 billion proceeds from the family’s divestment of Mundipharma, a company that markets OxyContin and other drugs overseas.