Arkansas is one of several states participating in discussions regarding the tentative settlement announced Wednesday with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma over its role in the country’s opioid crisis.
State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is “actively participating” in talks alongside other states' representatives who hope to hold Purdue and its owners “accountable for their role in misleading and deceptive conduct in the opioid crisis,” according to a statement Thursday from communications director Amanda Priest.
“Arkansas has been devastated by the opioid epidemic, and to solve this crisis Attorney General Rutledge has taken a multifaceted approach which includes legal action to seek justice for those who have lost their lives to addiction and seek resources for the state to address this massive problem,” Priest wrote.
The tentative settlement isn’t complete and both the manufacturer and the family that owns it will likely be a part of additional litigation, the Associated Press reports.
Approximately 2,000 local governments are represented in the agreement, which would require Purdue Pharma to file for structured bankruptcy. It would pay out over time as much as $12 billion. The AP reports the figure includes future profits and the value of drugs already being developed.
Roughly $3 billion of the payments will come from the Sackler family. It will also be required to release ownership of the company and contribute an additional $1.5 billion through the sale of another pharmaceutical company Mundipharma.
The company plans to work with the plaintiffs to reach a resolution and provide opioid overdose rescue medications to affected communities across the United States, it said Wednesday in a statement.
This isn’t the first time Purdue is being required to pay up. The state of Oklahoma settled with Purdue for $270 million, then an Oklahoma judge ruled last month Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiaries will have to pay $572 million for abatement.
A Washington Post report published in July stated three pharmacies in Fort Smith and Van Buren received in 2006-2012 more opioids from distributors than any other pharmacy in the state.
Local officials previously told the Times Record there were multiple factors at the time that contributed to the number of opioids received, including lack of prescription oversight, pill mills and drug addiction in the area.
The three pharmacies received a combined total of approximately 22.6 million pills, according to DEA records obtained by the Post. Arkansas received more than 894 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills during that time, records show.
Sebastian County has seen a slow decline in opioid prescriptions since 2012 when it topped 229.4 prescriptions per 100 people. The Centers for Disease Control reported in 2017 the county was down to 153.1 prescriptions per 100 people.
Arkansas in 2017 was the second-highest state for opioid prescriptions, despite a slight dip from the previous year, with 105.4 per 100.
The Arkansas Medical Board passed regulations in April requiring doctors to justify opioid prescriptions that exceed 50 morphine milligram equivalents and the county held an opioid summit in June to discuss prescribing habits and abuse.
“Recently, there has been a lot of information shared not only with the medical community, but with the public in general. Everyone understands the danger narcotics can have with more than short-term use,” Dr. Don Phillips of Mercy Hospital Fort Smith and the Medical Board previously told the Times Record. “That has now been educated to a lot of people throughout the state in many ways. ... I don’t have any reason to believe it won’t continue a downtrend for us locally.”
Times Record reporter Max Bryan contributed to this article.