Purdue Pharmaceuticals Bankruptcy Settlement Paused

Posted Sep 5, 2023, by Paul Fedore

an image of prescription pills and the Purdue name
Photo by Mike Licht on Flickr

While state and local governments have begun receiving their share of opioid settlement funds from a variety of parties held responsible for harm, the maker of the drug that is at the center of the opioid crisis, Purdue Pharma, has been trying to shield its wealthy Sackler family owners from further lawsuits over their role in the country’s opioid epidemic.

Purdue filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019 to address its debts, which mostly stemmed from thousands of lawsuits alleging that OxyContin helped to kickstart the opioid epidemic that has taken more than 500,000 lives across the country over two decades.

On August 10th of this year, the US Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge by President Joe Biden’s administration to the legality of the bankruptcy settlement. Filing for bankruptcy protections is meant for debtors in “financial distress,” not people like the Sacklers who are said to be worth over $11 billion. 

The issue in question is whether or not the U.S bankruptcy law allows Purdue’s restructuring to include legal protections for the members of the Sackler family, even though they did not file for bankruptcy individually.

Under the bankruptcy settlement, Purdue’s owners would receive immunity in exchange for paying up to $6 billion to settle thousands of lawsuits over its misleading marketing of the powerful pain medication OxyContin. Before the Sacklers agreed to pay the $6 billion, the family withdrew $11 billion from Purdue.

The justices have paused the bankruptcy proceedings relating to Purdue and its affiliates and said they would hold oral arguments in December.


  • Paul Fedore

    Paul Fedore has been a resident of Washington County since 2016 and previously worked with Washington County United, a chapter of PA United, as a canvasser fighting for economic, environmental, and racial justice. He loves camping, hiking, fishing, and boating. Paul joined CCJ’s team in July 2020 as the Field Program Coordinator to help deepen and strengthen our relationships with communities in southwestern Pennsylvania and to ensure that people have a pathway to engage in improving their communities. As of late 2023, Paul is now a Community Organizer, and is excited to work with everyone to hold fossil fuel companies and our elected officials accountable and to organize to build power in our small towns and rural communities. Contact Paul at paul@centerforcoalfieldjustice.org.

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