CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Purdue Pharma, producer of the painkiller Oxycontin, has a tentative settlement over its role in the opioid addiction crisis that has ravaged communities across the country, including many in West Virginia.

Rusty Webb

The tentative settlement would be with 22 state attorneys general and more than 2,000 cities and counties that sued the company.

“West Virginia’s cities and counties would take part in that,” said Rusty Webb, a Charleston attorney who represents the largest cities in West Virginia, about 25 more medium and small cities, plus a few counties.

Charleston lawyer Anthony Majestro, whose firm has partnered with five others to represent over 600 cities and counties across the country — including several in West Virginia — says he is recommending acceptance to those clients.

Anthony Majestro

“The sooner we can get this money into the hands of those who can treat the people affected by the crisis, the quicker our communities will heal,” Majestro said. “The intent of these funds is to put the money into treatment programs.”

If the deal is approved by all parties, it would be the first comprehensive settlement in ongoing legal efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic.

“We recognize a lot of work needs to be done, but we feel good progress has and will continue to be made,” Majestro said.

Purdue Pharma has pointed toward Chapter 11 bankruptcy one way or another. Reaching an agreement prior to bankruptcy could expedite payment to the drug-ravaged communities, while also providing more certainty.

As The New York Times reported, the settlement involves the dissolution of Purdue Pharma. A new company would be formed to sell OxyContin, its opioid-based pain medication. The proceeds from the new company would go to a public beneficiary company that would pay the plaintiffs.

The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, would give up control of the company and pay $3 billion in cash over seven years.

All told, the deal would be worth $10 billion to $12 billion, media outlets were reporting.

The settlement does not include a statement of wrongdoing, media outlets reported.

Lawyers representing cities, counties and other groups were participating in a consolidated federal lawsuit. The lawyers were represented by an executive committee.

One of the lawyers on the executive committee is Paul T. Farrell Jr. of Huntington, who represents the Cabell County Commission and the City of Huntington.

Farrell, along with other lawyers on the executive committee, said they would recommend the cities and counties “move forward in support of the current proposal, subject to satisfactory documentation of the essential terms and final documents,” according to The Washington Post.

“We feel good progress has and will continue to be made.”

Some states were objecting that the Sacklers were not putting forward enough of their personal wealth.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced in March a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family.

The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office did not immediately provide a reaction to the proposed settlement.

In March, Morrisey said, ““Enough is enough. The opioid epidemic knows no boundaries but our state will not go down quietly.”

 

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