NEW JERSEY — Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Thursday the resolution of lawsuits brought by New Jersey against the Sackler family and their opioid-manufacturing drug company Purdue Pharma.
The State’s lawsuits alleged that a greed-driven opioid marketing and sales strategy devised by Purdue and eight individual Sackler defendants fomented the opioid epidemic that has claimed countless lives in New Jersey and across the nation.
Under the global resolution, the Sackler family will pay participating states a total of approximately $4.32 billion over the next nine years to fund efforts aimed at abating the opioid epidemic, including prevention, treatment and recovery efforts. New Jersey’s share of the overall resolution will be approximately 2.75 percent of the funds available to the States for distribution from the bankruptcy proceeding, in an amount likely to exceed an estimated $110 million.
The resolution will also make public tens of millions of Sackler family and Purdue Pharma documents related to their role in the opioid epidemic.
Filed in bankruptcy court Wednesday evening and still subject to the court’s approval, the agreement announced today requires unprecedented disclosure about the role Purdue and the Sacklers played in creating and sustaining the opioid epidemic.
Among other things, it requires Purdue and the Sacklers to make public more than 30 million documents, including attorney-client privileged communications about the original FDA approval of Purdue’s flagship opioid painkiller OxyContin, as well as tactics used by Purdue to promote opioids. It also requires the Sackler defendants to make one of the largest payments that individuals have paid to resolve a law enforcement action in U.S. history.
“With their reckless push to drive up profits by saturating society with highly-addictive opioid painkillers, the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma harmed millions of individuals and families in New Jersey and across the country,” Grewal said. “As I’ve said previously, these defendants were morally bankrupt before they ever declared actual bankruptcy, and we were determined not to let them take the easy way out. We were determined to make them pay.”
Under terms of the global resolution, Purdue will turn over for public disclosure the evidence from lawsuits and investigations of Purdue over the past 20 years, including deposition transcripts, deposition videos, and 13 million documents.
Purdue will also be required to turn over more than 20 million additional documents, including every non-privileged email at Purdue that was sent or received by every member of the Sackler family who sat on the Board of Directors of Purdue Pharma or worked at the company.
Lastly, Purdue will waive its attorney-client privilege to reveal confidential communications with its lawyers about tactics for pushing opioids, FDA approval of OxyContin, complicit “pill mill” doctors and pharmacies that diverted opioids, and about the billions of dollars Purdue paid out to the Sacklers.
In addition to the total $4.325 billion to be paid out to jurisdictions that sued Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers, thousands of individual victims of Purdue’s misconduct will also receive compensation as part of the bankruptcy process.
Under the terms of the resolution, the Sacklers will be permanently banned from the opioid business and Purdue will be sold or wound down by the end of 2024.
The resolution also requires the Sacklers to relinquish control of family foundations presently holding $175 million in assets to the trustees of a foundation dedicated to abating the opioid epidemic. Further, the Sackler family will be prohibited from requesting or permitting any new naming rights in connection with charitable or similar donations or organizations for the next nine years.
New Jersey’s lawsuits, filed in October 2017 and May 2019, accused Purdue Pharma and the Sackler defendants of seeking to become unimaginably rich by deceptively promoting their company’s opioid pain medications as rarely addictive, seeking to flood the market with Purdue’s opioid pain products by encouraging risky prescribing practices, and by targeting vulnerable new patient populations such as the elderly.
Purdue Pharma subsequently declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and filed a motion seeking to enjoin New Jersey and other States from pursuing their lawsuits against the company and members of the Sackler family. While Purdue reached an overall resolution with many states and other jurisdictions that had sued the company over the opioid epidemic relatively early on, New Jersey rejected that agreement and pressed forward.
In September 2019, Attorney General Grewal issued demands for documents and information from eight members of the Sackler family, while also serving subpoenas on five Delaware-based corporate partnerships that owned the vast majority of Purdue’s assets.
Deputy Attorneys General Lara Fogel, Patricia Schiripo, Brian DeVito and Jesse Sierant, of the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group, and Assistant Attorneys General Kevin Jespersen and Janine Matton, handled the Purdue and Sackler matters on behalf of the State.