Purdue Pharma is close to reaching an agreement to plead guilty to charges related to worsening the opioid epidemic in the U.S., according to an exclusive report from Reuters on Wednesday.
A plea deal between Purdue’s lawyers and federal prosecutors is expected to be announced within the next two weeks, according to six sources close to the situation. Along with criminal charges, negotiations for a civil claim are also ongoing for alleged unlawful conduct in Purdue’s handling of prescription painkillers.
The pharmaceutical company could face penalties exceeding $8 billion. Purdue is accused of engaging in illegal kickback programs that paid doctors and pharmacies to prescribe medically unnecessary opioids. The Sackler family, who control Purdue, are in discussions to pay $225 million for false claims about prescription painkillers. Current settlement discussions will not absolve the Sacklers from criminal liability they may face in the future.
Federal prosecutors launched a federal probe into opioid makers and distributers last November to determine if these companies intentionally allowed opiates to be more easily accessed.
Should a plea deal be made, Purdue is unlikely to pay the related fines as their current bankruptcy proceedings are being considered and the company claims to lack the funds to pay off all their creditors. Any plea agreement that is reached would need the approval of a bankruptcy judge.
Part of the current settlement deal would include significant sums of money to go towards aiding opioid-impacted communities suing Purdue as well as a reorganization plan to change the company into a “public benefit company” that would not be operated by the Sackler family.
Despite the current charges facing the company, no members of the Sackler family will face any criminal charges, according to close sources. A criminal probe into the family is still occurring and criminal charges may come from that. The Sacklers themselves have not filed for bankruptcy.
A Department of Justice representative said Reuters’s report “contains inaccuracies and is highly misleading” without providing further details on the case.
Purdue has proposed a settlement it values at $10 billion to fund addiction treatment and fight overdoses, though some have pointed out that funds for these treatments would partly come from further opioid sales.