OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma kicked off its bankruptcy Tuesday with a court hearing to address logistics and make sure it can pay bills during the process. A week ago, the company said it would pay up to $12 billion over time to settle claims arising from abuse of its prescription opioids.
Overdoses from painkillers like OxyContin and illegal opioids have caused the deaths of more than 400,000 people in the United States in the past two decades. The settlement allows the company—and the Sackler family, who owns it—to avoid being held liable for the deaths, something not all plaintiffs agree on. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain will have to decide whether to allow lawsuits against the Sackler family to go forward. About half of the states that sued Purdue have rejected the settlement.
Some critics are also concerned about where the settlement money will come from. Under the tentative agreement, the Sacklers would relinquish ownership, but the company would continue to sell OxyContin and other products, with the profits going toward the settlement.
“The settlement agreement basically requires the settlement payments to be made based on the future sales and profits of opioids,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said this week. “That doesn’t really feel to me like the right way to do this.” —Rachel Lynn Aldrich