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Washington wins additional $113 million in challenge to Purdue Pharma opioid settlement

Washington state will receive a total of $183 million to address the opioid crisis from the makers of Oxycontin after rejecting the original bankruptcy proposal.

Editor's note: The above video originally aired Dec. 2021 after a judge rejected OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement.

Washington state will receive an additional $113 million to address the opioid crisis from the makers of Oxycontin after rejecting a bankruptcy proposal, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday.

Ferguson and eight other attorneys general challenged Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family's original bankruptcy plan, under which Washington would have received $70 million.

In November 2021, Washington and eight other states challenged the bankruptcy proposal in federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon agreed with the states and rejected the bankruptcy proposal. As a result, the states won a total of $1.17 billion from the Sackler family to help states, cities and tribes fight the opioid crisis.

Washington more than doubled its original share from $70 million to $183 million. Washington has the potential to receive an additional $11 million dependent on whether or not the sale of the Sackler family's international companies meets a certain threshold.

“Rather than join the majority of states in the settlement, Washington chose to lead the fight against the Sacklers and Purdue,” said Ferguson. “As a result, we won more than $100 million for Washington state to address the opioid epidemic, and more than $1 billion for states, cities and tribes across the country."

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According to the Washington Attorney General's Office, the proposed resolution must still be approved by the bankruptcy court. The AG's office also said Purdue and the Sackler family appealed the District Court's ruling vacating the original bankruptcy plan. Washington and the eight other states will drop their opposition to the appeal pending approval of the new settlement.

If the appeal goes forward, the proposed settlement is contingent on the bankruptcy plan being approved. If the bankruptcy plan is not upheld, the proposed deal is void, and Ferguson will continue fighting, the Washington Attorney General's Office said.

Washington also sued three of the largest opioid distributors, McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp., in King County Superior Court in 2019. The trial began in November 2021 and is ongoing. Under a settlement agreement, Washington would have received $527.5 million, a number Ferguson called "insufficient."

Washington is arguing the companies made billions of dollars feeding the opioid epidemic.

Purdue sought bankruptcy protection in 2019 as it faced thousands of lawsuits claiming the company pushed doctors to prescribe OxyContin, helping spark an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the last two decades.

Through the bankruptcy court, it worked out a deal with its creditors. Members of the Sackler family would give up ownership of the company, which would transform into a different kind of entity that would still sell opioids — but with profits being used to fight the crisis. It would also develop new anti-addiction and anti-overdose drugs and provide them at little or no cost.

Sackler family members also would contribute $4.5 billion in cash and charitable assets as part of an overall deal that could be worth $10 billion, including the value of the new drugs, if they're brought to market.

Government entities and businesses agreed to use any money they receive to fight the opioid epidemic. The deal also calls for millions of company documents, including communications with lawyers, to be made public.

In return, members of the wealthy family would get protection from lawsuits over their role in the opioid crisis — both the 860 already filed and any others in the future.

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