89.1 WEMU

Federal Bankruptcy Judge Approves Purdue Pharma's Settlement With Justice Department

Nov 17, 2020
Originally published on November 17, 2020 7:33 pm
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We have an update now on that landmark $8 billion settlement that the Justice Department announced last month with Purdue Pharma. Late this afternoon, a federal bankruptcy judge approved the deal to address the company's role in the nation's deadly opioid epidemic. Critics have blasted the settlement, saying it lets members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, walk away with most of their private fortunes intact. NPR addiction correspondent Brian Mann is with us now.

Hi, Brian.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So federal Judge Robert Drain issued this ruling after a long hearing today in White Plains, N.Y. What did he say, and what does his ruling mean for this controversial company?

MANN: Well, so Judge Drain backed arguments made by DOJ and Purdue Pharma that this settlement will pretty quickly funnel what they describe as huge amounts of money to help solve the opioid crisis. Hundreds of millions of dollars will go to pay for treatment programs and other government services in communities where opioid addiction has killed tens of thousands of people. And I should say Judge Drain also rejected arguments made by critics of this deal who said they could reach some kind of better settlement if given more time to negotiate.

SHAPIRO: Let's talk about that criticism. Twenty-five states, as well as members of Congress, objected to the idea of remaking Purdue Pharma into a public benefit corporation. I mean, will you explain what a public benefit corporation is and why these critics opposed it?

MANN: Yeah. So basically, Purdue Pharma will be reorganized as a kind of nonprofit. And then this plan will basically put local and state governments in the position of benefiting from future sales of opioids and drugs like OxyContin. Critics say that's ethically wrong. It creates a huge conflict of interest, they say, for government regulators.

Also, 13 U.S. senators, all Democrats, wrote a letter to the Justice Department last month. They said they have no interest in seeing their communities essentially partner with Purdue Pharma to sell these products that have poisoned their communities. Judge Drain again rejected those arguments, saying this newly reorganized company that'll go forward can be run for the public good.

SHAPIRO: What about members of the Sackler family? The sale of opioid medications made them very rich. And some state officials have said the family is worth more than $10 billion. Will they keep all that money?

MANN: Yeah, some states are still suing the Sacklers, and there are more negotiations ahead around this question. But, Ari, this was a clear victory for the family. As things stand, they'll give up only about $225 million of their personal wealth. They've admitted no wrongdoing in this. So this was a very good day in court for the Sacklers.

SHAPIRO: That is NPR's addiction correspondent Brian Mann. He has been following today's developments with Purdue Pharma. Again, just a little while ago, federal Judge Robert Drain approved the company's $8 billion settlement with the Justice Department.

Thanks, Brian.

MANN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.