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Supreme Court Overturns Purdue Pharma Opioid Settlement Protecting Sacklers


Following the Supreme Court‘s decision to strike down Purdue Pharma’s controversial bankruptcy plan, the maker of OxyContin, those who had sued the drug company were left uncertain about when promised funds would be available to combat addiction and other damages from the ongoing drug epidemic.

The ruling dismantled a carefully-crafted settlement worth roughly $8 billion, involving the Sackler family, which owns Purdue, and all the individuals, states, and local governments that had sued over harms from the opioid epidemic.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices focused on the part of the Purdue bankruptcy plan that shielded members of the Sackler family from future opioid-related lawsuits.

Some relatives of overdose victims praised the decision. Ed Bisch’s son, also named Ed, overdosed on OxyContin in 2001 at age 18. Bisch now leads Relatives Against Purdue Pharma and wants the Sacklers held personally accountable.

Purdue Pharma was facing thousands of lawsuits for falsely marketing OxyContin as non-addictive and fueling the opioid crisis. The company filed for bankruptcy in 2019.

Before that, the Sackler family had moved about $11 billion of profits into personal accounts. In his ruling, Gorsuch said members of the family had created a “milking program” designed to shelter opioid profits from their company’s bankruptcy.

During the bankruptcy negotiations, the family offered to pay $6 billion in exchange for immunity from future lawsuits.

A federal bankruptcy judge approved that deal in 2021, but Gorsuch ruled that it was an overreach.

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