With the national opioid litigation inching toward an October bellwether trial, Purdue Pharma's settlement talks took some dramatic turns over the weekend.
First, the Sackler family balked at offering up their personal wealth in a settlement deal, the Associated Press reported. Talks hit a wall.
Next, two state attorneys general wrote their fellow states to announce the impasse, according to a Saturday night email cited by AP. The AGs said they expected Purdue would seek bankruptcy immediately.
But by Sunday, the story had changed again: Purdue said it was still at the table, and local plaintiffs said their talks had never stopped.
News of a potential settlement hit last week, churning up public opposition from state officials and, apparently, private kickback from the Sacklers.
According to reports, Purdue and the Sacklers had offered some $12 billion: The family would pay $3 billion cash and the company would deliver $7 billion to $8 billion in free drugs and profit-sharing, NBC News and Reuters reported. If the Sacklers sold another company, they'd chip in another $1.5 billion.
State attorneys general weren't satisfied with the amount the Sacklers would pay; the family are among the wealthiest in America, with $14 billion in net worth as of 2016, according to Forbes. The AGs didn't like the settlement's reliance on future opioid sales, either, according to the WSJ.
Meanwhile, the family balked at paying $4.5 billion, according to the AP.
But lawyers for the company—plus those representing localities that sued—said they’re still interested in negotiating, AP reports. A Purdue spokesperson told the news service “negotiations continue and we remain dedicated to a resolution that genuinely advances the public interest.” A lawyer representing communities, not states, said any breakdown in talks didn't involve the plaintiffs he represented.
Almost every U.S. state and thousands of cities and counties have sued Purdue and other drugmakers alleging they oversold opioid benefits for treating chronic pain and downplayed addiction risks. Plaintiffs also claim distributors didn’t monitor suspicious orders. All of the conduct played a role in creating a nationwide opioid epidemic, they say.
On Monday, ProPublica released an analysis of opioid sales showing that the company has sought to downplay the size of its products' role in the addiction and opioid epidemic. According to DEA data the company cites, it sold 3.3% of opioid pills in the U.S. from 2006 to 2012. But those figures don't account for the strength of Purdue's drugs.
With potency factored in, ProPublica's analysis showed Purdue accounted for 16% of the market, trailing only generic companies Actavis, now owned by Teva, and a Mallinckrodt subsidiary.
As the first cases in the multidistrict litigation near a trial, several companies have inked small settlements. Endo and Allergan reached $10 million and $5 million settlements, respectively, to resolve lawsuits from Ohio’s Cuyahoga and Summit Counties. And on Friday, Mallinckrodt said it reached a $24 million settlement with the same counties. Following that deal, SVB Leerink analysts wrote that it seems opioid volumes are a "key driver for determining potential liabilities." They estimated Mallinckrodt's national liability to be $4.4 billion.
Aside from those lawsuits, Oklahoma sued Purdue, Teva and Johnson & Johnson in state court. The state secured $270 million in a settlement with Purdue, $85 million in a deal with Teva and a verdict of $572 million against J&J following a trial. J&J has said it will appeal.