Minnesota will get $50M in Purdue Pharma settlement

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the settlement money, paid out over nine years, will be overseen by the state’s opioid epidemic response advisory council and will be used for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.
John Autey | Pioneer Press via AP 2020

Minnesota will receive more than $50 million in a settlement with Purdue Pharma, maker of the opioid painkiller oxycontin.

State Attorney General Keith Ellison said the settlement money, paid out over nine years, will be overseen by the state’s opioid epidemic response advisory council and will be used for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.

“There’s no amount of money that’s going to compensate the victims. And obviously we would’ve liked to have seen more resources to take care of all the treatment needs and all the losses and all the damage. But when you are talking about burying a child, I mean, how much is the dollar amount for that?” Ellison said Thursday. “They should pay more and — I’m speaking for myself — they should apologize.”

Purdue Pharma plans to reorganize into an entity whose profits will be used to combat the U.S. opioid crisis. That plan got a boost this week when 15 states — including those who had most aggressively opposed Purdue’s original settlement proposal — dropped their objections to the new business model. 

To win the support, the company agreed to make more documents public and members of the Sackler family who owns it will kick in more money. But the owners have not admitted wrongdoing.

An office building with cars in front of it
Cars pass Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Conn.
Frank Franklin II | AP 2019

Massachusetts and New York are among those states that have agreed to sign on to the bankruptcy deal. Their attorneys general spoke in a news conference with Ellison on Thursday and also announced multi-million dollar settlement amounts for their states.  

“Sometimes it feels like there’s always a better settlement to be had,” Ellison said. “What we say today is we say yes to exposure, yes to transparency, yes to learning the lessons of the past.” 

Ellison said the payout is important, but so is the company’s agreement to disclose internal documents — something he believes will help in understanding the company’s role in the opioid crisis. 

“They cannot get away with this,” he said. “The fact that they have to cough up literally millions of documents which will help tell the story, is very critical because we’ve got to learn from these horrible lessons of this great tragedy.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Health, nearly 5,000 Minnesotans died of opioid overdoses from 2000-2019. 

“Let’s remember what the opioid crisis is about: addiction, suffering and death for too many Minnesotans and their families, and devastation for too many Minnesota communities, especially rural communities and communities of color — all while corporations like Purdue and the individuals that controlled them reaped billions in profits from it,” Ellison said in a statement. “Now with this resolution, the whole world will see what they did.”

The settlement would require Purdue Pharma to pay more than $4.3 billion to parties across the country for prevention, treatment and recovery efforts.

In a statement, members of the Sackler family called the support of more states “an important step toward providing substantial resources for people and communities in need.”

Still, nine states and the District of Columbia did not sign on. One of the holdouts, Washington Attorney Bob Ferguson complained: “This settlement plan allows the Sacklers to walk away as billionaires with a legal shield for life.”

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