Opioid crisis in the United States: a court questions the immunity of the Sackler family

An American judge invalidated, Thursday, December 16, the bankruptcy plan of Purdue, the laboratory accused of having contributed to the opioid crisis in the United States, because it provided a certain immunity for its owners, the Sackler family, in exchange for the payment of $ 4.5 billion.

In her ruling, Colleen McMahon believes the bankruptcy judge who ratified the deal in September lacked the authority to prevent possible future civil lawsuits against family members. Purdue immediately announced his intention to appeal.

The plan had received the support of an overwhelming majority of the company’s creditors as well as more than 40 US states. But several parties had decided to appeal, including a representative of the justice ministry and nine states. The deal, they argued, did not allow the victims to be heard and possibly file a complaint against the Sacklers.

US Justice Minister Merrick Garland welcomed the ruling on Thursday, saying in a statement that the bankruptcy court “Had no right to deprive victims of the opioid crisis of the right to sue the Sackler family”.

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“This is a huge victory for justice, and accountability, which (…) will force the Sackler family to face the pain and devastation it has caused”, also reacted the attorney of the State of Connecticut, William Tong, who had appealed.

More than 500,000 dead in twenty years

The aggressive promotion of the painkiller OxyContin by Purdue, driven by the Sackler family, who knew it to be very addictive, is considered by many to be the trigger of the opioid crisis, which has caused more than 500,000 overdose deaths in the last 20 years. years in the United States.

Purdue, the Sacklers and OxyContin have become the symbols of the excesses of a pharmaceutical industry desperate to make profits. The Purdue laboratory declared bankruptcy in September 2019, proposing a bankruptcy plan to settle the avalanche of litigation against it and agreeing to plead guilty.

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In her decision, Justice McMahon acknowledges that the invalidation of the immunity granted to the Sacklers “Will almost certainly lead to the cancellation of a carefully crafted plan” which contains positive elements, such as funding for programs to combat opioid dependence.

Purdue Chairman of the Board, Steve Miller, in fact noted that the decision “Will delay, and possibly end, the ability of creditors, communities and individuals to receive billions of dollars to alleviate the opioid crisis”. Most “Since the bankruptcy code does not confer such authority, the decision confirming the plan must be abandoned”, underlined the judge.

The plan called for the company to close its doors by 2024 in favor of a new entity managed by a trust. In addition to the sale of OxyContin for “Legitimate”, it was to provide, free or at cost, anti-overdose drugs and treatment for opioid dependence. Members of the Sackler family had pledged $ 4.32 billion in addition to the $ 225 million already paid to the Department of Justice.

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The World with AFP

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Opioid crisis in the United States: a court questions the immunity of the Sackler family

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