Wisconsin payout on hold after SCOTUS blocks Purdue Pharma opioid settlement

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a proposed settlement with OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, potentially delaying tens of millions of dollars in funding to help Wisconsin combat opioid addiction. The rejected deal, which would have shielded the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma, from personal liability, could have provided a total of $8 billion to state and local governments. Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, stated that the state’s potential payout could have exceeded $70 million.

The decision by the Supreme Court objected to a provision in the bankruptcy plan that would have provided immunity to the Sackler family. Wisconsin, along with other states, sued Purdue Pharma in 2019, alleging that the company contributed to the opioid crisis through deceptive sales and marketing of opioids, including the addictive pain pill Oxycontin.

With the deal scuttled, negotiations are expected to continue as Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy process resumes. Kaul reiterated his commitment to holding Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family accountable and maximizing recovery for Wisconsin.

The ruling does not affect the more than $750 million in opioid mitigation dollars already designated for Wisconsin through 2038, which came from multi-state settlements with other opioid manufacturers, distributors, and pharmacies. Wisconsin began distributing these funds in fiscal year 2023, with $36 million earmarked for uses such as medication-assisted treatment, prevention programs in schools, Naloxone, and fentanyl test strips.

The decision leaves local governments waiting to determine exactly how much money from Purdue Pharma will be available to support those struggling with opioid addiction. The Supreme Court decision has created uncertainty about when resources will be available, potentially impacting local efforts to combat the opioid crisis.

The recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision did not follow traditional partisan lines, and Kaul declined to comment on whether the high court made the right call. He acknowledged the practical argument for resolving cases quickly to bring dollars into the state to fight the opioid epidemic, but also expressed concern about private individuals being able to avoid liability in bankruptcy proceedings.

For help with addiction, call the free and confidential treatment referral hotline (1-800-662- HELP), or visit findtreatment.gov.

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