Opioids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 1,211 people in Arizona died in 2014 from overdoses of opioids, both prescription and illicit drugs.

PHOENIX — Arizona is among the more than two dozen states and 2,000-plus other governmental entities that have reached a tentative legal settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma in a lawsuit that accused the company of fueling the U.S. opioid epidemic.

Multiple news outlets reported Wednesday that Purdue Pharma reached its agreement with states, counties, municipalities, Native American tribes and others in anticipation of a planned bankruptcy declaration.

According to news reports, the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, will pay out $3 billion over seven years, with as much as $1.5 billion more coming from the sale of another company owned by the family. 

Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Attorney General Mark Brnovich, confirmed that Arizona is among the states in that part of the settlement with Purdue and the Sacklers. Anderson said it’s too early to speculate about how much money Arizona might receive as part of the settlement.

“Talks are progressing rapidly, but we believe this is the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family,” Brnovich said in a statement provided to the Arizona Mirror.

Purdue plans to begin bankruptcy proceedings in the immediate future. Many had feared the company would declare bankruptcy, making it far more difficult for states and others to recover damages from the company and from the Sackler family. Brnovich in July asked the U.S. Supreme Court to order the Sacklers to return $4 billion that they transferred out of the company, arguing that the money would help ensure that Purdue has the cash to cover potential legal liabilities.

“We believe our Supreme Court petition pressured the Sackler family to contribute more of their family’s personal wealth in this tentative settlement. Joining this settlement prior to Purdue Pharma filing for bankruptcy is in the state’s best interest,” Brnovich said Wednesday.

Arizona is currently pursuing legal action against Purdue in the U.S. Supreme Court and in Pima County Superior Court, cases which will likely be dismissed if the settlement is finalized and approved. Anderson said it would be premature for Arizona to drop the suits at this point. 

The settlement comes as Purdue Pharma prepared for trial in a massive federal lawsuit based out of Ohio.

More than 2,000 cities, counties, tribes, hospital districts and other governmental entities, including more than a dozen in Arizona, have joined the multidistrict litigation against Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors, accusing them of creating and exacerbating the nationwide opioid crisis through intentional and reckless marketing practices.

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