RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)-Virginia could soon receive the largest single investment in opioid treatment and recovery resources in the state’s history, according to Attorney General Mark Herring’s office.
It comes as a pending resolution is reached in a massive legal battle against the makers of Oxycontin for their role in flaming the addiction epidemic. Herring said the resolution was filed in court on Wednesday night and is still subject to approval.
Two years ago, Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler Family, sought bankruptcy protections as an avenue to settle thousands of lawsuits against them.
Now, Virginia is among 15 states dropping their opposition to a controversial settlement plan as others argue it doesn’t go far enough to hold the Sackler family accountable.
“2 End the Stigma” CEO and Founder Jill Cichowicz says her twin brother, Scott, was introduced to Oxycontin after getting a back injury at work.
“Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family were saying ‘this is not addictive, it’s for chronic pain, this will help you.’ My brother fully did not believe he was an addict because doctors were giving this to him,” Cichowicz said.
In a state of desperation after his prescription was cut off abruptly, Cichowicz said her brother unknowingly took a pill laced with fentanyl that ended his life at the age of 38.
“This family got away with pretty much murder for years,” Cichowicz said.
Cichowicz’s brother is one of thousands of victims named in lawsuits against Purdue whose families stand to be compensated once a deal is reached.
Under this settlement, Herring said the Sackler family will be permanently banned from the opioid business and Purdue will be sold or wound down by the conclusion of 2024.
However, the Sacklers will admit no wrongdoing and will be shielded from any future lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic under the agreement.
“They need to show these families that they are taking accountability. They want to right their wrongs and honestly they are just getting a slap on the wrist and the people who are getting the raw end of the deal are the victims. They are getting the smallest piece of the pie here,” Cichowicz said.
Overall, Herring says the Sacklers will pay more than $4.3 billion over the next nine years, which will be divided between governments and victims of the epidemic.
Herring said the state of Virginia is expected to receive at least $80 million. He said “the majority” of that money will go towards an opioid abatement authority to bolster prevention, treatment and recovery resources in the Commonwealth.
Additionally, Herring said the company will be forced to publicly release tens of millions of documents on their marketing tactics and the initial FDA approval process.
“It was incredibly important to me that this settlement include a disclosure agreement, so that Virginians could see for themselves the millions of documents that show the lies and deceit that Purdue and the Sacklers used for decades to sell billions of pills,” Herring said in a statement.
While the agreement isn’t perfect, Cichowicz says she is relieved that more money is on the way to hopefully prevent other families from losing loved ones to the opioid crisis.
“We need this money like yesterday. There are too many people who are continuing to die and struggle,” Cichowicz said.