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Purdue Pharma declares bankruptcy

In an expected move, OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in the midst of a lawsuit against the company by states and some 2,000 municipalities, including Ironton, which alleges the actions of the company lead to an opioid abuse crisis.

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy on Sunday. The Associated Press called the filing part of a complex move by the company and its owners, the Sackler family, which Forbes listed as one of the twenty richest families in America.

“One likely result of the company’s filing is that it will be removed from the first federal trial over the toll of opioids, scheduled to start Oct. 21 in Cleveland. Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries along with drug distributors and one pharmacy chain, Walgreens, remain as defendants,” the Associated Press reported.

Last week, the Associated Press reported that a deal worth as much as $12 billion was being negotiated between Purdue Pharma and its owners, and the state and local governments. Purdue Pharma is the maker of OxyContin and the lawsuit alleges that the company underplayed how addictive and deadly the drug was.

In a statement from the executive committee of legal firms representing the states and towns in the lawsuit, they said the bankruptcy filing was expected and they decided to move forward in negotiating final agreement with Purdue Pharma around resolving claims made against the company in the nationwide opioid litigation.

“As a result of these collaborative efforts, and unlike other bankruptcies that tie up company revenues, the bankruptcy filing will not prevent us from finalizing an agreement with Purdue to bring opioid recovery resources into the communities we represent.

Twenty-six state and territory attorneys general are supporters of the proposed structure that ensures all states will be part of ongoing bankruptcy discussions with the municipalities and other creditors,” the statement from National Prescription Opiate Litigation MDL Plaintiffs’ Executive Committee co-leads Paul J. Hanly Jr., of Simmons Hanly Conroy, and Paul T. Farrell Jr., of Greene Ketchum, Farrell, Bailey & Tweel, LLP and Joe Rice of Motley Rice LLC, said. “Additionally, this bankruptcy filing will neither impede nor delay October’s federal bellwether trial in Ohio against a number of opioid industry defendants who must be held accountable for their role in the opioid epidemic. We look forward to this fall’s trial, which will give us the first opportunity in federal court to unveil the evidence that shows how the industry created and benefited from the worst public health crisis of our generation.”

In January, the Ironton City Council passed an ordinance to join the lawsuits against Purdue Pharma. Councilman Nate Kline sponsored the ordinance and pointed out the city had 89 overdoses in 2018 and six of those ended in death. He has called Ironton and Lawrence County “ground zero for the epidemic.”