Minnesota to get $50 million from Purdue Pharma settlement, Ellison says

Minnesota will get $50 million over nine years from the settlement of a multi-state opioid lawsuit against drugmaker Purdue Pharma and its controlling family, Attorney General Keith Ellison said.

The resolution requires Purdue and the Sackler family to pay $4.3 billion and make 30 million internal documents public as an accountability measure. An initial proposal, which Minnesota and 14 other states opposed, would have required a $3 billion payment and no disclosure of documents.

Ellison said the resolution is not everything that he wanted. But he said it will help Minnesota deal with the opioid crisis, which killed 654 Minnesotans last year and nearly 5,000 since 2000.

"You can always second-guess a settlement," Ellison told reporters on a news conference Thursday morning. "In the course of a negotiation, you get the best you can get the quickly you can get it for the people you represent. That is what we have done."

The terms now have the backing from most states and still requires approval from Purdue's shareholders and a bankruptcy court. Nine states rejected the latest deal, with their attorneys general noting that it allows the Sackler family to retain much of its personal wealth.

Minnesota's share of the settlement will go to the state's Opioid Epidemic Response Advisory Council, a panel set up in 2019 to deal with the fallout from the crisis.

The money will provide a needed boost to the council's opioid response efforts. Minnesota has collected far less than the $20 million a year expected from fees levied against the opioid industry. The fees were authorized in a 2019 law.

Minnesota collected $14 million from opioid companies this year after receiving $13.6 million in the first year of the program's existence, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. An additional $1 million will be available for the opioid response effort this year because of a change made by the state Legislature in recent weeks.

Collections are below expectations because hundreds of small wholesalers and a small number of manufacturers dropped their licenses to operate in the state, Wiberg said. None of the large national or regional wholesalers dropped their licenses.

State Rep. Dave Baker, the council's vice chairman, lost his son Dan to an opioid overdose in 2011 and said the settlement money should held Minnesota address the crisis by funding treatment centers, mental health services and more.

"We are going to do a lot of good things with the dollars that were set up to go into this fund to help our communities. But we have a lot of work to do on reeling in the opioids," Baker, R-Willmar, said in an interview. "Whatever the money is, it’s not as important as making sure this never happens again."

State Sen. Chris Eaton, whose daughter Ariel died in an overdose in 2007, said she was pleased with the settlement terms.

"I'm grateful we got more than initially was offered," said Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center. "It feels like we finally got (the Sackler family) to have to pay for their horrible behavior."