Vermont won’t join states that settle with Purdue Pharma

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(AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Vermont will not join more than 20 other states in signing onto a tentative settlement with a pharmaceutical company for its role in the nation’s opioid-crisis.

Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Vermont rejected the settlement being finalized by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and state and local governments across the country.

In a statement issued Thursday, Donovan said reports that the settlement offer is in the $10 billion-$12 billion range is “incorrect.” Only a fraction of that amount is actually guaranteed, he said.

“The offer is not fully developed and we want to be certain that any benefit is not illusory,” he said. “Vermont demands more certainty and guarantees regarding the money in order to effectively address the opioids crisis in Vermont.”

Donovan said he “wants to be sure” Purdue and it’s owners, the Sackler family, aren’t using the bankruptcy court to avoid accountability. A bankruptcy filing by the company would likely end the lawsuits filed against the company.

Unlike some state attorneys general who signed on to the deal, he doesn’t believe allowing Purdue to file bankruptcy and create a new “public benefit” trust helps the communities harmed by the opioid crisis.

“I would prefer to shut down the company, sell the company’s assets now, and put the proceeds to use helping Vermonters whose lives have been ruined,” he said.

Donovan filed Vermont’s suit against Purdue in September 2018, accusing the company of violating the Vermont Consumer Protection Act with deceptive advertising, denying or failing to disclose the dangers of opioids at higher doses. Vermont also sued the Sackler family.

Nearly half the states and some 2,000 local governments have agreed to the tentative settlement with Purdue Pharma.

Several attorneys general said the agreement was a better way to ensure compensation from Purdue and the Sacklers than taking their chances if Purdue files for bankruptcy on its own.

But critics fume that the deal won’t be worth close to the stated $12 billion, that it won’t force internal company documents to be made public and that it doesn’t do enough to hold the company or its owners responsible.

Parties that don’t sign on to the settlement could raise objections in bankruptcy court — and some states have made it clear that that’s their plan.

“Far too many lives have been lost or devastated in Rhode Island as a result of the opioid crisis,” Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said in a statement Wednesday.

Donovan echoed that sentiment in his statement, saying “the needs to be told about how this epidemic started.

“For those reasons, Vermont rejected the settlement offer and will continue to fight on behalf of Vermonters.”

This story contains information from The Associated Press.

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