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Massachusetts could receive $110 million from new Purdue settlement

Purdue Pharma's headquarters stands in Stamford, Conn., on Oct. 21, 2020. (Mark Lennihan/AP)
Purdue Pharma's headquarters stands in Stamford, Conn., on Oct. 21, 2020. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

The new settlement with Oxycontin maker Purdue Pharma could provide Massachusetts with $110 million to offset costs from the opioid crisis.

Thursday's settlement with all U.S. states and thousands of local governments calls for Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, to pay up to $6 billion.

"I am glad to see a resolution in this case and am grateful for the mediator's efforts," said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who sued Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, for their role in the crisis. "It's time to deliver results: to expose the Sacklers' secrets, pay compensation to the families who were hurt and commit billions to harm reduction, treatment and recovery."

Under the deal, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits, though they could be prosecuted criminally. The settlement includes a statement from the Sacklers in which they expressed regret that their opioid painkiller Oxycontin "unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis."

The new settlement comes after an earlier deal — in which the Sacklers were to pay about $4.3 billion — was appealed by eight states and the District of Columbia. Those states signed on after Purdue's owners, the Sackler family, put in more money.

Massachusetts was expected to receive as much as $90 million in the earlier deal, but Healey's office said the new settlement will bring an additional $20 million to the state. Purdue will also have to disclose millions of documents related to its opioid painkillers.

The money for Massachusetts will be overseen by the state's Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council. The 21-member group was created in 2020 to review the money coming to the state from settlements in opioid litigation and determine how the funds will be spent.

The new deal must be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.

Some of those directly involved in local settlement talks with Purdue Pharma said they're satisfied with the deal reached Thursday over the company's role in the opioid crisis.

"I think it's great," said Cheryl Juaire, of Marlborough, a member of the Committee of Unsecured Creditors in Purdue's Bankruptcy. "I give kudos to the states for getting possibly one-and-a-half billion more dollars, and hopefully we can start using that money to save lives."

Others, meanwhile, hope that criminal charges are in the offing.

"I would like to see criminal charges, and I hope the Department of Justice does its job and will start looking at prosecution," said Joanne Peterson, founder of the support group Learn 2 Cope. "I don't think any amount of money will take away the pain for families; that's never going to change."

Peterson, a member of the state's Opioid Recovery and Remediation Fund Advisory Council, said the group is a diverse panel of people from across the state, and many have personal or professional experience with opioid use disorder. She said the council has so far looked to improve addiction treatment, especially in areas that have been underserved.

"The people in the group have been working on this for many years," Peterson said. "It was very smart of the state to put this group together — people who know what the needs are. Now, with this settlement, we know where we can go from here; the real planning can begin."

Under the new settlement, $750 million will go to individuals and families nationwide. Some of those directly affected will publicly address members of the Sackler family in court. Juaire said she hopes to be among them. She'd like to tell the Sacklers about her two sons who died of overdoses.

"I just want them to know the effects of what they've done to my family and all the other families I know who have suffered so deeply," Juaire said."No amount of money will bring back my boys, but hopefully it will save others from the sentence I was given."

Related:

Deborah Becker Twitter Host/Reporter
Deborah Becker is a senior correspondent and host at WBUR. Her reporting focuses on mental health, criminal justice and education.

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