Purdue Pharma reportedly offers $12bn to settle opioid lawsuits

Hoping to turn the page on more than 2,000 legal claims, the drugmaker seeks to strike deal with attorneys.

    Prescription painkiller OxyContin was made by Purdue Pharma, which is owned by members of the Sackler family [George Frey/Reuters]
    Prescription painkiller OxyContin was made by Purdue Pharma, which is owned by members of the Sackler family [George Frey/Reuters]

    OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and its owners, the members of the Sackler family, have offered to settle more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company for between $10bn and $12bn, the NBC News network reported on Tuesday, citing two people familiar with the mediation.

    Purdue is among several drugmakers and distributors facing lawsuits that seek to hold them responsible for fueling the United States opioid addiction crisis, which has claimed thousands of lives.

    The Stamford, Connecticut-based company said it was actively working with state attorneys general and other plaintiffs to reach a resolution, without specifying a settlement amount.

    But Paul Hanly, a lead attorney for the cities and counties in the opioid litigation, said in an email to the Reuters news agency that the settlement figure was "made up" and "ridiculous".

    Attorney Mary Jo White, who represents one wing of the Sackler family in the opioid litigation, declined to comment on the reported settlement offer. A Sackler spokeswoman also declined to comment.

    A representative for the state attorneys general did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Deadly toll

    NBC's report comes one day after an Oklahoma judge ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $572m to the state for deceptively marketing addictive painkillers.

    Purdue in March reached a settlement of $270m to resolve a similar lawsuit by the state of Oklahoma.

    The potential deal reported by NBC was part of a confidential meeting held in Cleveland, Ohio, last week between state attorneys general, plaintiffs' attorneys and Purdue's lawyers.

    The lawsuits accuse Purdue of aggressively marketing prescription opioids while misleading prescribers and consumers about risks from their prolonged use.

    Opioids were involved in almost 400,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2017, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    About 2,500 lawsuits - mostly filed by local governments across the US - have sought to hold drugmakers and distributors liable for the crisis.

    Around 2,000 cases have been consolidated before a federal judge in Cleveland.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency