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Virginia Rejects Opioid Settlement, Sues Family That Owns Purdue Pharma

Attorney General Mark Herring
Attorney General Mark Herring (Photo: VPM News)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has rejected a multi-billion-dollar settlement deal with opioid maker Purdue Pharma. On Wednesday it was announced that 23 states and thousands of local governments had tentatively agreed to the deal. Purdue is the target of numerous lawsuits for its alleged role in the nation’s opioid crisis.

As part of the deal, the Sackler family, who owns Purdue would relinquish control of the company and contribute at least $3 billion of their own wealth to end the lawsuits.

Herring said in a statement he won’t agree to any settlement with Purdue unless he’s sure it is in the best interest of Virginians. He is amending his 2018 lawsuit against the pharmaceutical giant to include several members of the Sackler family.

“For decades, the Sackler Family has made a fortune from the sales of drugs that they knew were dangerous, deadly, and addictive,” Herring said.

In the complaint, filed in Tazewell County Circuit Court, Herring also alleges the family fraudulently took at least $4 billion from the company to shield profits from Virginia and other localities that are seeking damages.

“The Sackler family has lived and they are still living a life of unimaginable wealth and comfort,” Herring said. Meanwhile families across Virginia and across the country have been devastated by an opioid crisis that was fueled by their lies and the deceit by Purdue Pharma.”

Herring said 8,000 Virginians have died from an opioid overdose since 2007, of which 5,000 were from prescription drugs.

University of Richmond Law Professor Carl Tobias said suing the Sackler family may ensure plaintiffs receive monetary damages as Purdue moves to file for bankruptcy.

“The sticking point is the Sacklers and how much they would pay in, because the company itself doesn’t have a lot of money,” Tobias said. “And so a fail safe or backup is suing the family members personally but that has complications as well.”

Tobias said judges may not allow the suit to go forward or the Sacklers to be held personally liable for the opioid epidemic.

Purdue has long-denied allegations that it is responsible for the crisis, but said in a statement it is committed to working with all parties towards a constructive resolution.

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Whittney Evans is VPM News’ features editor.
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