ST. PAUL — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Thursday, July 8, said the state expected to receive more than $50 million over nine years from a settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and the family that ran it.
The news comes hours after Minnesota, along with 14 other states, agreed to a settlement with Purdue Pharma and with the Sackler family that would include a $4.3 billion payout to states and the disclosure of 20 years' worth of documents related to the company's role in the opioid epidemic. It would also protect the Sackler family and its associates from future opioid-related lawsuits.
In 2019, Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family filed for bankruptcy and as part of that settlement offer, they proposed to pay $3 billion to states to offset the cost of programming related to opioid abuse prevention and treatment. Minnesota, along with 23 other states, opposed that proposal and sued to block the bankruptcy filing.
But on Thursday, Ellison, along with attorneys general from Massachusetts and New York, announced that 15 states agreed to drop the suit in favor of a settlement. The attorneys told reporters that the deal wasn't perfect, but it could help provide transparency around how the company promoted OxyContin despite knowing about its addictive properties and provide relief to families whose loved ones died of opioid overdoses.
Purdue and the Sackler family in mediation hearings bumped up the amount they would pay out and agreed to additional disclosure of transcripts, deposition videos and other documents related to internal discussions around OxyContin and the opioid epidemic.
In a statement, Purdue Pharma said the company would "continue to work to build even greater consensus for our Plan of Reorganization, which would transfer billions of dollars of value into trusts for the benefit of the American people and direct critically-needed medicines and resources to communities and individuals nationwide who have been affected by the opioid crisis."
Another nine states that had filed suit against Purdue, along with the District of Columbia, rejected the settlement this week.
"You can always second-guess a settlement, and I'm sure people will," Ellison told reporters. "But the bottom line is we are proud to stand with Minnesotans, give them the resources that they need as soon as they can and to tell the truth about what these folks did."
Public health experts have said the introduction and widespread prescription of painkiller OxyContin in the late 1990s spurred the opioid epidemic in the United States. And in Minnesota, Department of Health officials report that 4,821 people died of opioid overdoses between 2000 and 2019. In 2020, the number of opioid overdose deaths jumped to 654, a 59% increase compared to the year earlier.
Minnesota's Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council will decide how the state will allocate the funds over the next decade. Ellison said the roughly $50 million would be used for programs that aim to prevent opioid addiction and offer treatment and recovery offerings.
Purdue's bankruptcy plan is set to come before a judge next month during a confirmation hearing and details of the settlement will likely be finalized in the next few weeks.