OxyContin maker bankruptcy deal goes before the Supreme Court, with billions of dollars at stake


WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court The debate ends on Monday A nationwide settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma It would protect members of the Sackler family, which owns the company, from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids.

The settlement reached with state and local governments and victims will provide billions of dollars for the war opioid epidemic, The Sacklers will contribute up to $6 billion and give up ownership, and the company will emerge from bankruptcy as a separate entity, with profits to be used for treatment and prevention.

but the judges stop settlement Over the summer, in response to objections from the Biden administration.

The issue for judges is whether the legal shield provided by bankruptcy can be extended to such people sacklers, who have not declared themselves bankrupt. Lower courts have issued conflicting rulings on that issue, which also impacts other major product liability lawsuits settled through the bankruptcy system.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee, a branch of the Justice Department, argues that bankruptcy law does not allow the Sackler family to be protected from being sued by people who are not part of the settlement. The government had supported the agreement during the Trump administration.

Supporters of the plan said that third-party releases are sometimes necessary to create settlements, and federal law places no prohibition against them.

Advocates for the more than 60,000 victims who supported the settlement called it "a significant moment in the opioid crisis," while acknowledging that "none of the harms suffered by victims due to the deceptive marketing of OxyContin, a powerful prescription painkiller The amount cannot fully compensate”. ,

A victim's attorney who opposed the settlement called the provision related to the Sacklers "special protection for billionaires."

OxyContin first came to market in 1996, and Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing is often cited as the catalyst for the nationwide opioid epidemic, causing doctors to prescribe painkillers with less regard for the dangers of addiction. Is inspired.

The drug and the Stamford, Connecticut-based company became synonymous with the crisis, even though most of the pills prescribed and used were generic drugs. Opioid-related overdose deaths have continued to rise in recent years, reaching 80,000. Most of them are from fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.

The Purdue Pharma settlement would be the largest settlement reached by drug companies, wholesalers and pharmacies to resolve pandemic-related lawsuits filed by state, local and Native American tribal governments and others. Those settlements total more than $50 billion.

But the Purdue Pharma settlement will be one of only two so far that include direct payments to victims from the $750 million pool. Payouts are expected to range from approximately $3,500 to $48,000.

Sackler family members are no longer on the company's board, and have not received any payments since before Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy. However, in the decade before that, he was paid more than $10 billion, about half of which was spent by family members to pay taxes.

A decision in Harrington v. Purdue Pharma, 22-859, is expected by early summer.

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