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Why Purdue's opioids settlement matters

OxyContin pills. Photo: Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, was willing to pay handsomely to avoid a high-profile, televised trial over the company's role in the opioid crisis.

The big question: How much more is Purdue willing to pay to settle the 1,600 other lawsuits that have been consolidated before a federal judge in Ohio?

  • "It’s got to set off a feeding frenzy," University of Georgia law professor Elizabeth Burch said. "There’s blood in the water now."

Driving the news: Purdue reached a $270 million settlement yesterday with Oklahoma, where the first major trial over the opioid epidemic is set to begin in May.

Details, via the Wall Street Journal:

  • Purdue will pay Oklahoma just shy of $200 million, most of it to fund a new addiction treatment center. Members of the Sackler family, which founded and controlled Purdue during its OxyContin heyday, will contribute another $75 million.

What we're watching: Purdue has said it's considering declaring bankruptcy, which would likely limit plaintiffs' ability to collect damages they might win at trial.

  • That possibility "exerted powerful leverage at the bargaining table in Oklahoma," The New York Times reports, and could jump-start settlement talks in the larger, consolidated case as well.
  • Purdue's settlement doesn't affect the other companies Oklahoma is pursuing, including Johnson & Johnson.

Go deeper: Huge national opioids lawsuit moves forward