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Healey: Purdue Settlement Will Unlock Sackler 'Secrets'

In this April 1, 2021, file photo, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey responds to questions from reporters during a news conference in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP File)
In this April 1, 2021, file photo, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey responds to questions from reporters during a news conference in Boston. (Steven Senne/AP File)

Gov. Charlie Baker and Attorney General Maura Healey formally announced an agreement Thursday afternoon to resolve the state's lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, a deal in which Massachusetts is expected to get $90 million of a $4.3 billion settlement.

Healey, who filed the first state lawsuit against individual members of the OxyContin maker's controlling Sackler family, said the agreement requires Purdue to be wound down or sold by 2024, bans the Sacklers from the opioid business and orders more than 30 million documents related to opioid sales, marketing and distribution to be made public. The $4.3 billion is to come from the Sacklers themselves — "we believe the most that individuals have ever paid for breaking the law," Healey said.

"While I know this resolution does not bring back loved ones or undo the evil of what the Sacklers did, forcing them to turn over their secrets by providing all the documents, forcing them to repay billions, forcing the Sacklers out of the opioid business, and shutting down Purdue will help stop anything like this from ever happening again," the attorney general said. "This case has also shown us that our legal system needs to change so that billionaires are never allowed to manipulate the bankruptcy system. I am grateful to the families whose strength and perseverance will continue to guide our work to combat this crisis in the years ahead."

Healey made the announcement at One Ashburton Place on Thursday. At the press conference, people affected by the opioid crisis spoke as well.

Roger Brunelle Jr, president of the International Union of painters and Allied Trades, District Council 35 in Boston, lost his 26 year old son Brent Hastings to an overdose in 2016. He said his son became addicted after he was prescribed painkillers for an injury. Brunelle became emotional during the press conference and said the deal is a victory for others.

"Today I'm not standing here to celebrate a victory because for our families there can be no victory. However, excuse me, what's happening here today is going a long way toward putting more tools in the toolbox for education, prevention and hopefully recovering for those who are struggling now."

Cheryl Juaire lost two sons, one just two weeks ago, to opioid-related overdoses and started Team Sharing, a support group for parents and families.

"How do I stand here now? Because I, like the hundreds of thousands of families out there who have lost a loved one, have waited for justice for those that created this epidemic. Today, Team Sharing stands here in support of the agreement that have been reached in the Purdue Pharma case. I'm grateful because money is going to be used toward treatment, prevention, education and compensation in the hopes that not one more parent has to bury their child."

Healey said she would continue to try to change laws so companies cannot profit from addiction.

"I promise that I will do everything in my power ... to continue to fight for justice for our families, to change what we need to change and to advocate for the kind of supports that families need when it comes to substance use disorder," she said.

NPR reported Thursday morning that 15 states, Massachusetts and New York among them, had agreed to drop opposition to the opioid manufacturer's bankruptcy plan as part of the agreement. Healey's office said the resolution was filed in bankruptcy court Wednesday night and is subject to approval.

In 2019, when Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and announced that it had agreed to a roughly $10 billion settlement with 24 state attorneys general, Healey opposed the settlement as "incomplete" without the Sacklers putting up some of their own personal fortunes.

"I rejected it for the following reasons: first of all, this proposed deal isn't worth nearly what they say it is. It doesn't require the Sacklers to pay back a dime of the billions of dollars they sucked out of Purdue through the sales of Oxy over the last many years. And also it doesn't provide the kind of accountability and transparency that we need," Healey said Monday. "We need the documents, we need the story told. That's the only way we're going to get justice in this case."

Healey first sued the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in June 2018, alleging that they "engaged in a deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids in Massachusetts" and profited from the drug epidemic they helped create.

Healey's complaint alleged that Purdue "created the epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit" by misleading doctors and patients to get more people using their drugs, at "higher and more dangerous doses" and for longer periods of time, as well as by deploying falsehoods to keep patients away from "safer alternatives."

A total of 671 Massachusetts residents who filled prescriptions for Purdue opioids between 2009 and 2019 later died of an opioid overdose, according to the suit. According to Healey's office, Purdue sent sales representatives to Massachusetts doctors offices, clinics and hospitals more than 150,000 times between 2008 and 2019.

With reporting by State House New Service's Michael P. Norton and Colin A. Young, and WBUR's Deborah Becker

This article was originally published on July 08, 2021.

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