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Crime and Courts

Colorado isn’t part of settlement with opioid maker Purdue Pharma; attorney general calls offer “inadequate”

Colorado is suing Purdue, maker of the potent painkiller OxyContin, and the Sackler family, which owns the pharmaceutical giant, in state court

In this April 2, 2018 photo, pharmacist Steve Protzel poses for photos holding a bottle of OxyContin at Daniel's Pharmacy in San Francisco. (Jeff Chiu, AP file photo)
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Colorado is not part of a tentative national settlement with opioid maker Purdue Pharma, Attorney General Phil Weiser said Wednesday.

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Weiser says the up to $12 billion deal reached between many other states and thousands of local governments isn’t adequate to address the company’s impacts in Colorado. 

“Colorado has not agreed to any settlement with Purdue Pharma or the Sackler family,” Weiser said in a written statement. “No current offer adequately addresses the harm that Purdue and the Sacklers have caused to communities and individuals in Colorado by contributing to the opioid crisis. We will continue to work hard to hold them accountable and obtain an appropriate settlement or judgment to address the crisis.”

Colorado is suing Purdue, maker of the potent painkiller OxyContin, and the Sackler family, which owns the pharmaceutical giant, in state court. 

More than 20 Colorado cities and counties — including Denver and Huerfano County — are part of the large federal case included in the settlement, but it is unclear what the settlement will mean for them.

MORE: Colorado expands lawsuit against opioid-maker Purdue Pharma to include its owners, the Sackler family

In recent years, Purdue has been sued thousands of times by state and local governments looking to recover damages for the toll the opioid epidemic has taken on their communities. All of the cases filed in federal court were consolidated into a single case under a judge in Cleveland. Other officials — like Weiser — chose to sue Purdue in state courts, meaning their cases are not automatically governed by the federal settlement.

Purdue reached the tentative deal Wednesday with about half the states and more than 2,000 local governments over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. The deal was struck with a team of lawyers who had been given negotiating authority for the plaintiffs. A spokesman for the Denver mayor’s office, for instance, said Wednesday the city is evaluating the settlement’s impacts for Denver.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said the agreement included more money from the Sackler family, which had become a sticking point during the recent talks.

“Talks are progressing rapidly, but this is the quickest and surest way to get immediate relief for Arizona and for the communities that have been harmed by the opioid crisis and the actions of the Sackler family,” Brnovich told The Associated Press.

Sources with direct knowledge of the talks say that Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue will pay up to $12 billion over time and that the Sackler family will give up control of the company. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Paul Farrell, an attorney for several local governments, said in a text message that some 2,000 have agreed to a deal that has been on the table for several weeks.

Even with Wednesday’s development, roughly half the states suing Purdue had not signed on, and Weiser and several other state attorneys general vowed to continue their legal battles against the company and the Sacklers. Roughly 20 states, including Colorado, have sued the Sacklers in state court.

New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut were among the states saying they were also not part of the agreement.

The lawsuits assert that Purdue aggressively sold OxyContin as a drug with a low risk of addiction despite knowing that wasn’t true.

In court filings, Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors. In March, Purdue and members of the Sackler family reached a $270 million settlement with Oklahoma to avoid a trial on the toll of opioids there.

A court filing made public in Massachusetts this year asserts that members of the Sackler family were paid more than $4 billion by Purdue from 2007 to 2018. Much of the family’s fortune is believed to be held outside the U.S., which could complicate lawsuits against the family over opioids.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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