Oregon, Washington to get millions of dollars from Purdue Pharma settlement

By April Ehrlich (OPB)
March 5, 2022 11 p.m.

Oregon and Washington are set to get tens of millions of dollars from a national settlement with Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family over their roles in the opioid crisis.

The deal follows an earlier settlement that was appealed by attorneys general from Oregon, Washington, six other states and the District of Columbia. Their lawsuit challenged the company’s bankruptcy plan.


“We didn’t think, first of all, that it gave enough money to the states,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum told OPB. “And we also felt like the terms of the bankruptcy were insufficient and that it got the Sacklers completely off the hook as individuals, who, by the way, did not themselves declare bankruptcy.”

The states’ challenge added $1.2 billion to the original settlement. Overall, $97 million will go to Oregon and $183 million will go to Washington; all of that money will go toward addiction treatment and prevention in those states.

Oregon will also receive another $329 million from a late February settlement with three opioid distributors — McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health — as well as drug manufacturer Johnson & Johnson. Rosenblum says much of that money will go to cities and counties to use on local addiction programs.

Peacehealth St. John’s clinic in Longview, Washington. Cowlitz County is rural and has one of the highest overdose death rates in the state.

Peacehealth St. John’s clinic in Longview, Washington, in 2017. Cowlitz County is rural and has had one of the highest overdose death rates in the state.

Molly Solomon / OPB

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told OPB he never imagined he would reach an agreement with the Sackler family, who founded Purdue Pharma and are the center of numerous lawsuits tied to the opioid crisis.

“For me, there had to be a significant amount of money for Washington state in order for me to justify, frankly, giving up taking this case all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Ferguson said.

About two people in Washington die every day from an opioid overdose. In Oregon, an average of 5 people die every week from opioid overdose.

This new settlement also calls for the Sackler family to turn over control of the Connecticut-based company so it can be turned into a new entity with profits going to fight the opioid crisis. The deal would not shield members of the family from criminal charges, although there’s no indication any are forthcoming.

Sackler family members haven’t apologized for their role in the nation’s opioid crisis, but they issued a statement of regret about the toll of OxyContin, the company’s signature painkiller. Purdue Pharma had aggressively promoted its use to doctors who were apprehensive about prescribing highly addictive opioids. In 2020, Purdue pleaded guilty to criminal charges for its role in starting the opioid crisis, as it paid doctors to write more opioid prescriptions to patients who likely didn’t need them.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.