New Mexico joins opioids settlement with Purdue

September 18, 2019

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico state prosecutors have reversed course to join in a tentative financial settlement over the role that OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma played in the nation’s opioid addiction crisis.

Attorney general’s office spokesman Matt Baca said Wednesday in an email that participating in Purdue’s bankruptcy proceedings through the settlement “is ultimately the best way to get dollars to our state and the communities that are in desperate need of treatment resources.”

Prosecutors initially said last week that New Mexico would decline to join the settlement because it was insufficient.

Under the settlement proposal, backed by about half the states, the Sackler family that owns Purdue would turn the company, its assets and more than $1 billion in cash reserves over to a trust controlled by the very entities suing it.

The deal is valued by Purdue at more than $10 billion over time.

New Mexico filed a lawsuit against several manufacturers of prescription opioids in 2017 and has expanded its litigation to claims against 48 companies across the supply chain.

Last week, it sued the Sacklers on allegations of deceptive practices that helped flood the state with opioids. The attorney general’s office declined to say whether that lawsuit will be dropped as a condition of the tentative settlement.

Officials and activists in some states are troubled by the prospect of the continued sale of Purdue’s opioids in the U.S. and overseas to raise money under the tentative settlement. Overdose deaths in New Mexico increased by 9% to 537 in 2018, an increase largely because of methamphetamine use.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas told KKOB news radio Wednesday that he wants to take the profit motive out of pain management and still ensure patient access to pain medicine.

Balderas said he held off joining the Purdue settlement to make sure New Mexico secured a leadership role to influence how assets are divided among the states.

“New Mexico deserves to be compensated by the amount of harm that we’ve been receiving,” Balderas said. “The suicide rate is something that I’ve fought hard to make sure that they consider, and also the devastation of the crime and the breaking up of families.”

Balderas said his staff is scheduled to travel to New York next week in connection with bankruptcy proceedings.

The attorney general’s office also has contracted with the Albuquerque-based law firm Robles, Rael & Anaya, which in turn works with an outside consortium of attorneys to pursue opioid manufacturers and distributors. The state pays no money up front, while contract attorneys pursue compensation though legal proceedings.