Attorney General Phil Weiser announces resolution with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family for their role in the opioid crisis
Resolution secures unprecedented public disclosure and $4.3 billion from the Sacklers for prevention, treatment, and recovery
July 8, 2021 (DENVER) – Attorney General Phil Weiser today announced a resolution of his lawsuit against the Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma, that will make public tens of millions of documents related to their role in the opioid crisis, and require the Sacklers to pay at least $4.3 billion for prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts in communities across Colorado and the country.
The resolution of the lawsuit by the State of Colorado, which was filed in bankruptcy court on Wednesday night and is subject to approval, requires unprecedented disclosure about the role Purdue and the Sacklers played in fueling the opioid crisis. It requires Purdue and the Sacklers to make public more than 30 million documents, including attorney-client privileged communications, about Purdue’s manipulation of the original FDA approval of OxyContin, and its fraudulent and deceptive marketing tactics to promote its opioid drug Oxycontin. It also requires the Sacklers to make one of the largest payments that individuals have paid to resolve a law enforcement action in U.S. history.
“Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family made billions of dollars from engaging in a widespread, multifaceted, deceptive, and wrongful campaign to market and sell opioids. Their actions have contributed greatly to a crisis level of opioid use disorder cases and nearly 5,000 overdose deaths in Colorado. On account of this epidemic, so many families have lost loved ones; this action is taken with them in mind. Today, we are holding Purdue and the Sacklers accountable for their reprehensible conduct and the crisis they caused in our state and around the country,” said Attorney General Weiser. “Funds we receive from this resolution will be shared with local governments in our state to support recovery, treatment, and education and prevention programs.”
Under the terms of the resolution, Purdue will turn over for public disclosure the evidence from lawsuits and investigations of Purdue over the past 20 years, including deposition transcripts, deposition videos, and more than 30 million documents, including every non-privileged Purdue email that was sent or received by any member of the Sackler family who sat on the Purdue Board or who worked at the company. Notably, Purdue is required to waive its attorney-client privilege and, thus, to reveal confidential communications between Purdue with its lawyers about tactics for pushing opioids, FDA approval of OxyContin, its knowledge of “pill mill” doctors and pharmacies diverting drugs, and billions of dollars Purdue transferred to the Sacklers after Purdue and several of its executives plead guilty in 2007 to fraudulent and deceptive marketing.
The Sacklers will pay $4.325 billion over the next nine years, with Colorado expected to receive at least $50 million, earmarked for abatement of the opioid epidemic. The exact amount Colorado will receive will be determined as part of the Reorganization Plan confirmation proceedings in the still pending Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case in the federal bankruptcy court in the Southern District of New York. After the Reorganization Plan is approved, additional funds in the billions of dollars from the Purdue Pharma company also will be available for abatement purposes. Thousands of individual victims of Purdue’s misconduct will also receive compensation as part of the bankruptcy process.
Under the terms of the Reorganization Plan, the Sacklers will be permanently banned from the opioid business, and all business activities of Purdue Pharma will be sold or wound down by the end of 2024.
The resolution also requires the Sacklers to relinquish control of certain family charitable foundations holding $175 million in assets to unrelated trustees of a newly formed foundation dedicated to abating the opioid crisis. The Sackler family will be prohibited from requesting or permitting any new naming rights in connection with their charitable or similar donations or organizations for the next nine years.
Attorney General Weiser has designated addressing the opioid crisis as a top priority. In addition to today’s resolution of his lawsuit with Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers filed in July 2019, Weiser led a multistate settlement with the global management consulting firm, McKinsey & Company earlier this year. That case held the firm accountable for working with Purdue and the Sacklers to turbocharge opioid prescriptions in Colorado and brought $10 million in settlement dollars to Colorado.
The attorney general’s office is also working with stakeholders to develop a framework for sharing future opioid settlements with local regions around the state.