A federal bankruptcy judge approved a controversial $8.3 billion settlement between Purdue Pharma and the Department of Justice, NPR reports. The deal unveiled last month stems from the company’s decades-long manufacture and marketing of Oxycontin and other highly addictive opioid medications. Under terms approved by Judge Robert Drain on Tuesday, Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to three felony counts of criminal wrongdoing. The company is likely to be reorganized into a public benefit corporation, with profits from future opioid sales to fund programs aimed at alleviating the addiction crisis.
The ruling followed a contentious day-long hearing in White Plains, N.Y., with attorneys participating by phone because of coronavirus restrictions. Drain rejected objections to the deal by a coalition of more than two dozen states that are still suing Purdue Pharma. “Let’s get real about this,” Drain said. “Let’s focus on how to resolve conflicts, or at least reduce them.” He described the federal settlement as “a critical building block” in efforts to resolve the tsunami of lawsuits against the company, which filed for bankruptcy last year. Beginning in the 1990s, Purdue Pharma and its owners, members of the Sackler family, began aggressively marketing opioid medications. The Stamford, Ct.-based business was hugely profitable but executives acknowledge their efforts helped fuel a deadly addiction epidemic that wrecked lives and killed tens of thousands of Americans. Critics of the settlement say Purdue Pharma executives pleaded guilty to illegal marketing practices in 2007, but quickly resumed their campaign to maximize profits.