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Sunday, September 15 Business

Report: Purdue Pharma, DOJ discussing possible end to probes

STAMFORD — As it tries to settle 2,000 lawsuits filed by cities and states, OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma is reportedly negotiating a potential end investigations of the company by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The talks are focusing on civil and criminal probes that have examined Purdue’s possible failure to report doctors who were illegally prescribing opioids and the firm’s order-monitoring systems, according to unnamed sources cited by The Wall Street Journal.

Government officials have considered charges under “continuing criminal enterprise” statutes that are commonly used to prosecute drug dealers and have subpoenaed former Purdue employees in recent months, the Journal also reported.

A spokesman for the DOJ’s U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut and a spokeswoman for Purdue declined to comment on the matter Friday.

In October 2017, Purdue confirmed it was under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Connecticut and said it was cooperating with the inquiry.

“Purdue is committed to being part of the solution to our nation’s opioid crisis and has been cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s investigation,” Purdue said in a statement at the time. “We will continue to do so until this matter is resolved.”

A DOJ-led investigation of Purdue produced, in 2007, the most-serious sanctions of the company. In that case, it pleaded guilty in federal court to misbranding OxyContin, resulting in $635 million in company and individual penalties.

Any agreement with DOJ, including potential fines, could affect the resolution of the 2,000 pending lawsuits that allege the company fueled the opioid crisis with deceptive OxyContin marketing.

The company has neither confirmed nor denied reports that it would be willing to pay between $10 billion and $12 billion to settle the lawsuits, although it has stated its preference for settling rather than taking the cases to trial.

“While the company is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, Purdue has made clear that it prefers a constructive global resolution,” the company said in a statement. “We are actively working with state attorneys general and other plaintiffs on solutions that have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives and deliver billions of dollars to the communities affected by the opioid abuse crisis.”

In a related move, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong participated in an Aug. 20 meeting in Cleveland that included Purdue representatives and eight other state attorneys general, including Tong’s counterparts from Massachusetts and New York.

The parties convened at the request of federal Judge Dan Aaron Polster, who is overseeing a consolidated “multidistrict litigation” group of some 2,000 city and county lawsuits against Purdue and other opioid makers and distributors.

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The lawsuits of Connecticut and 45 other states with pending litigation against Purdue are not part of the MDL category, but a comprehensive settlement of the MDL cases could also cover the states’ complaints.

pschott@stamfordadvocate.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott

Paul Schott|Staff reporter

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