CLEVELAND — OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is expected to file for bankruptcy after settlement talks over the nation’s deadly overdose crisis hit an impasse, attorneys general involved in the talks said Saturday.
The breakdown puts the first federal trial over the opioid epidemic on track to begin next month, likely without Purdue, and sets the stage for a complex legal drama involving nearly every state and hundreds of local governments.
Purdue, the family that owns the company and a group of state attorneys general had been trying for months to find a way to avoid trial and determine Purdue’s responsibility for a crisis that has cost 400,000 American lives over the past two decades.
An email from the attorneys general of Tennessee and North Carolina, obtained by The Associated Press, said that Purdue and the Sackler family had rejected two offers from the states over how payments under any settlement would be handled and that the family declined to offer counterproposals.
“As a result, the negotiations are at an impasse, and we expect Purdue to file for bankruptcy protection imminently,” Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery and North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein wrote in their message, which was sent to update attorneys general throughout the country on the status of the talks.
Purdue spokeswoman Josephine Martin said, “Purdue declines to comment on that in its entirety.”
A failure in negotiations sets up one of the most tangled bankruptcy cases in the nation’s history. It would leave virtually every state and some 2,000 local governments that have sued Purdue to battle it out in bankruptcy court for the company’s remaining assets. Purdue threatened to file for bankruptcy earlier this year and was holding off while negotiations continued.
It’s not entirely clear what a breakdown in settlement talks with Purdue means for the Sackler family, which is being sued separately by at least 17 states.
Those lawsuits are likely to continue but face a significant hurdle because it’s believed the family — major donors to museums and other cultural institutions around the world — has transferred most of its multibillion-dollar fortune overseas.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who was one of the four state attorneys general negotiating with Purdue and the Sacklers, said Saturday he intends to sue the Sackler family, as other states have.
“I think they are a group of sanctimonious billionaires who lied and cheated so they could make a handsome profit,” he said. “I truly believe that they have blood on their hands.”
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.