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US Supreme Court pauses $6bn Sackler family opioid settlement for review

BMJ 2023; 382 doi: (Published 14 August 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;382:p1871
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

The Supreme Court of the United States has placed a hold on a legal settlement approved by a federal appeals court that would have seen Purdue Pharma, the company most blamed for the US opioid epidemic, pay $7.2bn to states, cities, native tribes, and individuals harmed by its marketing practices, including $6bn from Purdue’s former owners, the Sackler family.

The settlement, announced in May after the Sacklers increased their offer from $4.3bn, was accepted by all the US plaintiffs, effectively overruling objections from a smaller number of Canadian plaintiffs.1 But it was another party to the case, the US Trustee, a Department of Justice official responsible for the integrity of the bankruptcy system, who has now persuaded the country’s top court to re-examine the constitutionality of the deal.

A novel feature of the settlement was that while only Purdue had …

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