Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says the state has rejected a massive settlement offer from opioid maker Purdue Pharma.
The Connecticut-based company reportedly reached a tentative agreement on Wednesday with half of the states and local governments that have filed suit against the OxyContin maker and its owners, the Sacklers. That deal “would have Purdue file for a structured bankruptcy and pay as much as $12 billion over time, with about $3 billion coming from the Sackler family,” the Associated Press reported.
But on Thursday morning, Donovan said in a statement that the state rejected the offer because the amount of money to be paid is not yet settled, and the deal “is not fully developed and we want to be certain that any benefit is not illusory.”
“Vermont demands more certainty and guarantees regarding the money in order to effectively address the opioids crisis in Vermont,” Donovan wrote.
The AG also blasted the idea of the company declaring bankruptcy, saying the business could shutter and sell its assets instead.
“I want to be sure that billionaires can’t use bankruptcy court as a vehicle to avoid accountability,” Donovan wrote.
Approximately 2,000 local governments and other entities have sued the company and the Sackler family. About two dozen states are said to “favor” the deal, the New York Times reported. Vermont is one of at least 18 states that have rejected it, according to a tally done by NBC News.
Purdue and members of the Sackler family settled with Oklahoma in March for about $270 million. And in a separate suit last month, Oklahoma won a $572 million award from Johnson & Johnson for that company’s aggressive opioid-marketing tactics, a landmark ruling that could have broad implications for the remaining cases against Purdue and the Sacklers.
Meanwhile, a federal trial against Purdue was scheduled to begin in Cleveland, Ohio, in about six weeks. It’s unclear what implications the tentative agreement announced on Wednesday will have on that case.
Vermont filed suit against Purdue last September after talks between the state and drugmaker broke down, Donovan said. Among the allegations against Purdue is that the company, with the Sacklers at the helm, aggressively pushed OxyContin even in the face of mounting evidence that the drug was dangerously — and oftentimes fatally — addictive.
"Purdue Pharma lied; they misrepresented; they fabricated," Donovan said at the time. "And they spread falsehoods, and they made billions off it — and they created a path of destruction that the State of Vermont is still reeling from."
In 2011, opioid manufacturers and distributors — including Purdue — sold a total of 18.2 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in Vermont, a Seven Days analysis found. That same year, Vermont medical providers wrote 502,566 prescriptions for opioids in a state with a population of just under 627,000.
The pill-fueled crisis in Vermont led to widespread heroin addiction and record-level fatal overdoses linked to opioids, peaking at 110 last year.
In May, Donovan filed suit against eight members of the Sackler family, saying that “they made billions of dollars off the backs of patients who became addicted to OxyContin” and became “unjustly enriched by their misdeeds.”