Opioid addiction is a devastating scenario both for the person using the medication and his or her loved ones. The opioid crisis has been linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the U.S. since 2000. It is essentially a man-made pandemic. In recent years, thousands of people have pursued justice from Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, and they and their attorneys have faced an uphill climb since then. Today, the Justice Department announced that Purdue will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement totaling more than $8 billion.
Here’s the breakdown of how and whom Purdue will pay:
- $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability
- $3.54 billion criminal fine
- $2 billion criminal forfeiture including $225 million paid to the U.S. government
Under the agreement, Purdue would transform into a public benefit company that is governed by a trust that considers the interests of the American public and public health. Part of the settlement proceeds would go to aid in programs and treatment to combat the opioid epidemic that Purdue largely created. As part of the plea deal, Purdue admits that it violated federal law and “knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet” the dispensing of prescription medication “without a legitimate medical purpose and outside the usual course of professional practice.” Criminal investigation is ongoing, and Purdue is required to cooperate per the agreement.
The Sackler family, who owns Purdue Pharma, will turn over the company and pay at least $3 billion to resolve thousands of suits against the company; however, they are not a part of the criminal charges. In this settlement, the Sackler family is not held fully accountable. Purdue – but not the Sacklers – filed for bankruptcy last year, which may allow Purdue to potentially get out of paying portions of the settlement.
This deal also faces opposition from many state attorneys general who said it does not do enough. “Millions of American families impacted by the opioid epidemic are looking to you and your Department for justice. Justice for the sleepless nights spent worrying about sons and daughters trapped in the grip of substance use disorder, justice for the jobs lost and the lives ruined, and justice for the lives of loved ones lost to overdoses,” 38 Democratic members of Congress wrote. “If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law.”
What Settlement Could Mean for Opioid Victims
Those who became addicted to opioid medication deserve maximum financial recovery from Purdue and the Sackler family. And while the financial payout and criminal investigation outcome are for the judges and attorneys involved to decide, we hope that the result truly takes the company to task for the way it handled the marketing and sale of an extremely dangerous drug.
Still, there are some important considerations for many of the victims who are included in the civil liability settlement. Addiction comes with additional risks at settlement time. The stress of the litigation process and its conclusion can force people into difficult mindsets. What could start out as hundreds of thousands of dollars or more in a settlement recovery can be depleted surprisingly fast without an informed plan in place. Working with a professional to develop a customized settlement plan is of paramount importance for opioid victims and their families. For more information on settlement planning, visit milestoneseventh.com/our-approach.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).