BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey announced an agreement Thursday afternoon to resolve the state’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, a deal in which Massachusetts is expected to get $90 million of a $4.3 billion settlement.
Healey, who filed the first state lawsuit against individual members of the OxyContin maker’s controlling Sackler family, said the agreement requires Purdue to be wound down or sold by 2024, bans the Sacklers from the opioid business and orders more than 30 million documents related to opioid sales, marketing and distribution to be made public.
“While I know this resolution does not bring back loved ones or undo the evil of what the Sacklers did, forcing them to turn over their secrets by providing all the documents, forcing them to repay billions, forcing the Sacklers out of the opioid business, and shutting down Purdue will help stop anything like this from ever happening again,” the attorney general said. “This case has also shown us that our legal system needs to change so that billionaires are never allowed to manipulate the bankruptcy system. I am grateful to the families whose strength and perseverance will continue to guide our work to combat this crisis in the years ahead.”
Although it will never be able to bring loved ones back, the announcement families hope it’ll stop the next family from dealing with this same kind of grief.
“February 24, 2011, I lost my son to an Opioid overdose,” said Cheryl Juaire of Marlborough. “Ten years later and less than two weeks ago I lost my second son from the same disease of addiction.”
Since that disease of addiction was sparked in part by the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, Attorney General Maura Healey fought back tears knowing her several years of fighting them in court are now over.
“Not only for today but for every day forward I will do everything in my power to continue to fight for justice for our families,” said Healey.
In 2019, when Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that it had agreed to a roughly $10 billion settlement with 24 state attorneys general, Healey opposed the settlement as “incomplete” without the Sacklers putting up some of their own personal fortunes.
“I rejected it for the following reasons: first of all, this proposed deal isn’t worth nearly what they say it is. It doesn’t require the Sacklers to pay back a dime of the billions of dollars they sucked out of Purdue through the sales of Oxy over the last many years. And also it doesn’t provide the kind of accountability and transparency that we need,” Healey said Monday. “We need the documents, we need the story told. That’s the only way we’re going to get justice in this case.”
Healey first sued the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in June 2018, alleging that they “engaged in a deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids in Massachusetts” and profited from the drug epidemic they helped create.
Healey’s complaint alleged that Purdue “created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit” by misleading doctors and patients to get more people using their drugs, at “higher and more dangerous doses” and for longer periods of time, as well as by deploying falsehoods to keep patients away from “safer alternatives.”
A total of 671 Massachusetts residents who filled prescriptions for Purdue opioids between 2009 and 2019 later died of an opioid overdose, according to the suit. According to Healey’s office, Purdue sent sales representatives to Massachusetts doctors offices, clinics and hospitals more than 150,000 times between 2008 and 2019.
“We will continue to work to build even greater consensus for our Plan of Reorganization, which would transfer billions of dollars of value into trusts for the benefit of the American people and direct critically-needed medicines and resources to communities and individuals nationwide who have been affected by the opioid crisis,” said Michele Sharp, executive director of media relations for Purdue Pharma L.P.
While the state determines how to best use the money, John Greene who lost both his son and nephew to drugs says it starts with education.
”It’s tough every day, my son, it’s brutal,” said Greene, of the Evan G. Foundation.
“That’s how we save these kids, educate them because you know it’s fentanyl, it’s deadly out there,” Greene said. “These kids don’t know, it’s just one choice, that one bad choice costs your life like it did my son at 15 taking a Percocet from unspoken peer pressure in a vehicle with somebody stealing prescription out of the house and here he is at 17 years old, he’s shooting heroin. It that’s comes that quick and it’s scary.”
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