Plan calls for WV to receive 1 percent of settlement reached with OxyContin maker

AP PhotoFILE - In this Oct. 21, 2020, file photo, Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in Stamford, Conn. Purdue Pharma, which helped revolutionize the prescription painkiller business with its drug OxyContin, is proposing a path to emerge from bankruptcy that calls for it to be transformed into a public trust funneling profits into the fight against the nation's intractable opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

CHARLESTON — Despite being one of the areas most affected by the opioid crisis, West Virginia is set to receive about 1percent of the proposed national settlement being reached with the drug company accused of creating the problem.

The disclosure for the settlement was made over the weekend after West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, with support from 82 counties and municipalities and others, filed an objection to Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement and its failure to disclose how the $7 billion proposal would be split.

According to the newly released settlement document, known as the Denver Plan, West Virginia is set to receive about 1.16 percent of the settlement, about $81 million.

While the metrics were calculated based on several factors, including the amount of prescription opioids sold, the number of people suffering pain reliever use disorder, overdose deaths and more, it heavily relied on population measured by a 2018 U.S. Census estimate.

Morrisey’s objection had argued a population-based disbursement would violate the overriding principle of the case, namely that the money should go where it is most needed.

“West Virginia and our supporting counties and municipalities oppose settlement distributions largely based on population,” he said. “Such proposals fail to recognize the disproportionate harm caused by opioids in West Virginia, and we must work toward providing just accountability in West Virginia and the nation.”

The company filed for bankruptcy after hundreds of federal lawsuits seeking millions of dollars in damages were filed.

The $7 billion proposed settlement was reached via combining company assets and a guaranteed $4.275 billion from the Sackler family, a contribution nearly 50 percent more than the family initially offered. The family will also be removed from control and ownership of the company, effectively barring them from future involvement in opioid sales in the country.

Morrisey filed suit against the company and former chief executive Richard Sackler in 2019, accusing them of creating a false narrative deceiving prescribers of the addictive and dangerous nature of opioids. Purdue Pharma is accused of creating deceptive marketing strategy with reckless disregard for compliance enforcement.

Its opioid, OxyContin, had no dose ceiling, despite assertions by federal regulators that OxyContin’s dose ceiling was evident by adverse reactions.

A similar lawsuit filed by the Cabell County Commission said at some point the company marketed the drug in the Huntington area — one of the hardest hit by the opioid crisis — at a rate 32 times that of other areas across the nation.

Last year the company admitted to federal felony charges and said it marketed and sold its opioid products to health care providers despite having reasons to believe the patients were diverting them to abusers. It also admitted it provided misleading information to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

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