Washington Attorney General to appeal bankruptcy plan for makers of OxyContin

Sep 2, 2021, 9:56 AM | Updated: 11:14 am
Purdue, OxyContin...
In this file photo, fake pill bottles with messages about OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma are displayed during a protest outside the courthouse where the bankruptcy of the company is taking place in White Plains, N.Y. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson will appeal a federal judge’s plan to settle thousands of lawsuits against OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

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Ferguson says the bankruptcy plan is inadequate and that a bankruptcy court does not have the authority to prevent attorneys general from enforcing state law, including the decision to pursue the company’s owners, the Sackler family, for their illegal conduct.

“The judge is saying nobody, no individual, no state attorney general, can sue the Sackler family civilly for their involvement in the opioid epidemic and that harm that they caused. That’s outrageous, that’s buying justice, and that’s not how it works,” Ferguson said on Seattle’s Morning News.

Sackler family members serve on the board of directors, make decisions, and are involved in the day-to-day operations, Ferguson explained. If someone could take them to trial, he says they would face significant legal and financial exposure.

“I’m extremely dissatisfied with the resolution that is, frankly, legally and morally bankrupt,” he added.

Purdue’s bankruptcy plan requires the Sackler family pay $4.3 billion dollars over nine years to a group of states, municipalities, and private plaintiffs, including to Washington, that sued or have claims against the company. The plan also includes a “lifetime legal shield” for the Sackler family, as explained in the release from the Attorney General’s office.

“We’ve already filed our notice of appeal, we did that as soon as the judge was done speaking. Connecticut, which is where Purdue Pharmaceutical is headquartered, is joining with us. This case, I think, has a very good case of ending up at the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson says the order is insulting to victims of the opioid epidemic who had no voice in these proceedings.

Washington is one of 48 states that sued Purdue Pharma for fueling the opioid epidemic. The state’s lawsuit asserts that the company ran a massive deceptive marketing campaign to convince doctors and the public that OxyContin is effective for treating chronic pain and has a low risk of addiction, without evidence to support its claims.

The KIRO Radio Newsdesk contributed to this report.

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Washington Attorney General to appeal bankruptcy plan for makers of OxyContin