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DOJ Announces Settlement with Conn. OxyContin Maker

Jessica Hill
Purdue Pharma makes OxyContin, which investigators allege they falsely marketed as a prescription painkiller that poses lower risk for addiction.

For the first time, Purdue Pharma in Stamford, Connecticut have pleaded guilty to their role in stoking the opioid crisis. Now, States Attorneys worry the company’s $8 billion dollar settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice could mean less money for communities hit hard by the addiction epidemic.

Purdue faces thousands of lawsuits from cities and states, including in Connecticut and Long Island, for its alleged role in fueling addictions to prescription painkillers and heroin.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong represents the state in that fight for funds. Tong says it’s suspicious the DOJ’s criminal settlement comes just before the election.

“Why the federal government is stepping in to $8 billion dollars out of potential recovery for the states and for the families that are suffering, I do not understand," Tong says, "The best way to confront the addiction crisis and the opioid crisis is through the states, through treatment and prevention programs on the ground in the states. 

He asks why the DOJ did not seek jail time for executives.

“The Department of Justice should be doing everything in its power to put wrongdoers in jail. As attorney general in Connecticut, I don’t have that authority," Tong says, "They have that power, they should do that and they should leave the civil case and the damages to the states.”

Purdue is unlikely to ultimately pay the federal government $8 billion because it is in bankruptcy proceedings. Creditors, like lawsuit plantiffs, usually only get pennies on the dollar.

Despite the bankruptcy proceeedings, Tong says he is going to fight to get communities the compensation they deserve to address opioid misuse and treatement. 

A judge still has to approve the DOJ settlement with Purdue. The department did not state in its press release how the federal government plans to use the proposed settlement money.