AG Ferguson: Opioid settlement not big enough or tough enough

OLYMPIA — Washington is not agreeing to the tentative settlement some other states have reached with Purdue Pharma over the company’s role in the opioid crisis.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson blasted what he called a “purported settlement” as being too little in terms of money being offered and not tough enough on the Sackler family that owns the company.

“Purdue’s valuation of the reported settlement does not come close to matching ours,” Ferguson said Wednesday afternoon in a statement released by staff. “In addition, this purported settlement does not include an apology to the families and communities devastated by Purdue and the Sacklers’ conduct.”

The state originally was part of a multistate coalition that was investigating opioid manufacturers. But in January 2018 it filed its own lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, saying the company’s illegal conduct contributed to excessive prescriptions and addiction, resulting in some addicted patients engaging in criminal activities to get more pills or switch to heroin. It charged Purdue with making false claims of low addiction risk and about the safety and effectiveness of the drugs. The suit also alleged that the company’s salespeople sometimes aggressively marketed the drugs to the highest prescribers in the state.

“Washingtonians certainly deserve better, and I’ll keep fighting for them to get it,” Ferguson said.

About 2,000 local governments may agree to settle with Purdue Pharma if the deal is successful, according to the Associated Press. Spokane County could be among them.

Spokane County was among dozens of counties, cities and tribes who also sued Purdue Pharma, as well as other opioid manufacturers, separately from the state.

Jack Driscoll, chief civil attorney for Spokane County, confirmed Wednesday that the county was among the local governments affected by a potential settlement but said he had not yet heard any details on what that might look like.

Spokane County contracted with Keller Rohrback, a firm representing more than 50 other governments, mostly in the Western U.S., to sue opioid makers on its behalf.

Attorneys at Keller Rohrback did not immediately return requests for comment.