Purdue Pharma to plead guilty in $8bn opioid settlement

The Department of JUstice announces Purdue Pharma settlement

The maker of OxyContin painkillers has reached an $8.3bn (£6.3bn) settlement and agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges to resolve a probe of its role in fuelling America's opioid crisis.

The settlement with the US Department of Justice resolves the most serious claims against Purdue Pharma.

But the firm still faces thousands of cases brought by states and families affected by abuse of the painkiller.

Purdue called the deal an "essential" step to wider resolution of the matter.

"Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice," said Steve Miller, who joined Purdue's board as chairman in July 2018, shortly before the firm sought protection from the litigation by filing for bankruptcy.

The settlement with the DoJ must receive court approval to go forward.

The judge overseeing the bankruptcy case will be weighing how it will affect negotiations with other states and cities that have filed lawsuits against Purdue, many of which have already objected to the terms.

Oxycontin prescription

Oxycontin prescription

Oxycontin has been widely abused

They say it lets the company and its owners, the Sackler family, off too lightly for their roles creating a crisis that has claimed the lives of more than 400,000 Americans since 1999.

"DoJ failed," said Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey after the settlement was announced.

"Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long."

Justice Department officials defended the deal as "significant", saying that the department would forego much of the $8bn in fines, allowing the money to be directed to other creditors in the bankruptcy case - such as the communities ravaged by opioid abuse that have sued the company.

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They said they continue to review possible criminal charges against executives at the company and the Sackler family, which owns the company.

"This resolution does not provide anybody with a pass on the criminal side," Rachel Honig, federal prosecutor for New Jersey said at a press conference.

What's in the Purdue settlement?

Under the terms of the settlement, the firm will admit to conspiring to defraud the US and violating anti-kickback laws in its distribution of the addictive painkillers.

Those included payments the firm made to healthcare companies and doctors to encourage prescribing the drugs, which were ultimately paid for by public health programmes.

The Sackler family has also agreed to pay $225m and give up ownership of the firm, which would reorganise as a new "public benefit corporation or similar entity" - an idea backed by Purdue.

All but $225m of a further $2bn punishment would be directed to the new company for use addressing the epidemic.

The DoJ settlement also includes a $3.54bn criminal fine and $2.8bn civil penalty, which will compete with other claims in bankruptcy court - such as those made by communities affected by the opioid crisis.

Critics of the plan want to see the company sold and greater effort made to recover money from the Sackler family. Court documents revealed last year that the family had transferred more than $10bn out of the company between 2008 and 2017, as scrutiny of its conduct increased.

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