Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey vowed Monday to "aggressively" fight to make sure Purdue Pharma remains out of business, hours after the OxyContin maker filed for bankruptcy.
The drug company made the filing late Sunday in the first step in a complex, multibillion-dollar plan to settle thousands of lawsuits brought against it by state and local governments over the nation's deadly opioid disaster.
Healey was among the attorneys general who opposed the company’s move to settle some 2,600 lawsuits, most filed by state and local governments. She said the settlements would fail to hold the Sacklers — the family that owns the Purdue — fully accountable.
“We are prepared to go forward and continue to aggressively prosecute and litigate this case, both against Purdue but also against the Sacklers,” Healey said at a press conference Monday.
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The bankruptcy filing may not get either the drug maker or the Sacklers off the legal hook.
“This is a very good development for the country, given what Purdue has done in our view in creating the groundwork for this terrible, terrible crisis, Healey said.
About half the states and lawyers representing at least 1,000 local governments have agreed to the tentative settlement, which the company says could be worth $10 billion to $12 billion over time and would include at least $3 billion from the Sacklers.
Under the settlement, the family would give up control of the company, and its profits would be devoted to cleaning up the opioid mess and reimbursing state and local governments for the cost of the crisis that has killed more than 400,000 Americans in the past two decades.
In its bankruptcy filing, Purdue denied it is "seeking refuge" and said the settlement is the best way to deliver the most possible money to the public.
The company projected it will spend $263 million this year on legal expenses and other matters associated with the litigation, and warned that the continuing costs will only reduce the amount of money available to deal with the epidemic.
Federal Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in White Plains, New York, will have wide discretion over the case, including whether the states that don't like the settlement can press on with their lawsuits. Drain is scheduled to hold his first hearing on the bankruptcy plan Tuesday.
One effect already of Sunday's filing is that Purdue will not have to face the first federal trial over the opioid crisis after the judge overseeing the case removed the company as a defendant on Monday.
The trial is scheduled to start next month in Cleveland. The remaining defendants will be a group of drugmakers, distributors and a pharmacy.
Shaun Wallace, 40, who co-owns three "sober homes" in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he has been in recovery five years from an opioid addiction that started with OxyContin. He said he supports Healey's decision to continue pursuing the company.
"They were pretty much giving us minor-league heroin and saying it was safe," he said. "There should be more consequences for that family. Your average drug dealer gets in way more trouble than this family that's just taken out a whole generation of our people."