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MT among states nearing settlement of lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma

Details on money allocation yet to be determined
Posted at 11:49 AM, Sep 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-13 14:04:56-04

Montana is one of the states that reached a tentative settlement this week of its lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma, but state officials Friday said many details have yet to be determined.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Purdue, the manufacturer of the painkiller OxyContin, has agreed to a potential settlement of lawsuits from 23 states and more than 2,000 cities and counties nationwide.

Purdue and its owners are accused of helping fuel the opioid-addiction crisis in the country by falsely marketing the highly addictive painkiller as safe for treating chronic pain.

Montana is not part of a federal lawsuit against Purdue, instead filing its own suit in state court in late 2017.

Montana’s lawsuit says Purdue “falsely claimed that opioids could be prescribed by doctors and used as a first-line, long-term treatment for patients with chronic pain, without a material risk of addiction.”

The Montana suit seeks a variety of damages from and civil penalties against Purdue Pharma. The suit is scheduled to go to trial in January next year.

Montana Justice Department spokesman John Barnes said Friday that Montana favors some sort of “structured bankruptcy” by Purdue that would distribute funds to address effects of the opioid crisis.

While a tentative deal may have been reached, details on the amount and how the money might be allocated to states and local governments have not been determined, he said.

The Post reported that under the proposed settlement, Purdue would declare bankruptcy and then be resurrected as a trust, which would produce medications to combat opioid abuse.

The deal could be worth $10 billion to $12 billion, the Post reported, including a guaranteed payment of $3 billion from the family that controls the company.

Some Democratic attorneys general have said they’re opposed to the deal, saying it lets the Sackler family walk away with huge parts of its personal fortune intact and may not produce as much money as advertised.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, a Republican, told The Associated Press that a settlement would avoid a lengthy legal fight and deliver money more quickly to treat opioid-related problems. Pushing for more money from the Sacklers could cause a sale of their assets at a reduced value, Fox added.

While Montana isn’t usually noted as one of the states besieged by opioid deaths, data released last month by plaintiffs in the national lawsuits revealed that millions of opioid doses have been prescribed in Montana, from 2006-2012.

The data say from 2006-2012, nearly 90 million doses of oxycodone were distributed in Montana and almost 140 million doses of hydrocodone.