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This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. on 7/8/21 to correct a spelling error.
Pennsylvania is poised to receive $225 million over the next nine years in damages related to the opioid epidemic in a bankruptcy settlement with the family who owned Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin.
The settlement comes after 24 states, including Pennsylvania, pushed the Sacklers, who own Purdue Pharma, to make a better deal in return for future legal immunity in lawsuits over their role in the proliferation of addictive painkillers. The Sacklers have denied all wrongdoing.
“I know there is no amount of money that can make up for the loss of the parents, siblings, children and neighbors, but we intend to put these billions to work immediately to help address this crisis moving forward and to save lives,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement on the deal Thursday.
A total of 2,886 Pennsylvanians died of drug overdoses involving opioids in 2018, the most recent year with complete data. That total likely climbed with overdose deaths overall in 2020 amid the pandemic and widespread shutdowns.
According to NPR, the bankruptcy deal, which still must be certified in federal court, will give the family immunity in return for a small increase of $50 million to an already agreed to $4.3 billion in compensation. That money will come directly from the family’s personal wealth.
The family also will increase the number of internal Purdue documents made available to the public as part of the settlement, according to NPR.
As many as 48 states, as well as thousands of local governments, from cities and schools districts to native tribes, all have filed lawsuits against Purdue and other opioid manufacturers, seeking damages for the cost of fighting the opioid epidemic.
Shapiro first filed suit against Purdue in May 2019, accusing the company of “a multi-faceted, illegal effort to market OxyContin in Pennsylvania.” He followed up that suit with another against the Sacklers in September of that year.
Pennsylvania’s portion of the settlement will be spent at the discretion of the General Assembly. A provision tucked into the 2021-22 budget passed last month places all revenue from opioid legal settlements into a restricted account controlled by the Legislature.
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