Court says bankruptcy of OxyContin maker and protections for Sackler family members can go ahead

OxyContin’s maker, Purdue Pharma, can begin to execute an agreement that protects members of the Sackler family, owners of the company, from civil lawsuits over the toll of opioids, a court ruled Tuesday.

The ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York allows the transformation of the company to begin.

Under an agreement reached last year with thousands of state and local government entities, the company will become a new entity and its profits will be used to combat the opioid epidemic. And members of the Sackler family will pay up to $6 billion over time.

The Purdue deal is one of the largest in a series of corporate opioid deals worth a total of more than $50 billion so far. Unlike most, it includes funds for people who were victims of the crisis and their families.

In return, members of the wealthy Sackler family, who are not seeking bankruptcy protection, should be protected from lawsuits.

A Second Circuit panel approved the deal in May. By then, the main remaining objector was the US Bankruptcy Trustee, who says the Sacklers should have no legal protections.

The trustee has said in court filings that he intends to ask the US Supreme Court to take up the case. The deadline for that request is August 28.

But the Second Circuit said Tuesday it would not stop enactment of the agreement. The bankruptcy trustee could now ask the higher court to stay the liquidation plan.

The trustee, an arm of the federal Justice Department, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. Purdue Pharma had no immediate comment.

The trustee warned the Second Circuit in the filing that if it did not hold Purdue’s turnaround on hold, it might be too late, saying in a filing that “proponents of the plan will move swiftly to consummate the plan” in an effort to make objections moot.

Opioids have been linked to more than 70,000 fatal overdoses in the US each year in recent years. Most of them come from fentanyl and other synthetic drugs, but the crisis widened in the early 2000s when OxyContin and other powerful prescription pain relievers became commonplace.


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