Purdue Pharma lawyer fears small settlement amount

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. –West Virginia’s share in the bankruptcy settlement of pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma will likely be significantly less than what the West Virginia attorneys who sued the company were seeking.

Mike Woelfel

It is becoming increasingly clear that settlement funds will be based on a measure of population rather than other factors in places hardest hit by addiction issues created by Oxycontin, one of the biggest products. of the company.

Huntington’s attorney, Mike Woelfel, who is also a member of the State Senate, represents Cabell, Wayne and Fayette counties, three of 3,000 plaintiffs across the country in the lawsuit and voted “no” on the use of the population or the “Denver formula” to determine settlement amounts.

“Basically the Appalachian counties that have been hit really hard by this and the Native American tribes that have been hit hard by this, there has to be a formula and I guess the population formula will probably prevail,” Woelfel told MetroNews. .

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey also voted “no” for the state. He will defend his position at a confirmation hearing on August 7 in U.S. bankruptcy court in southern New York.

Woelfel said it was a disappointing development for those fighting to have the company pay for the damage caused by dependence on their products. Counties and cities in West Virginia claim that companies like Purdue Pharma were fully aware of what they were doing and that the dependency they created greatly enriched their bottom line.

Woelfel estimated that the state and various counties and cities would share around $ 80 million, but it could have been five or six times that amount using another metric he supported.

“We could have quadrupled that, a factor of five or six. There are all kinds of estimates, but it’s a huge reduction from what they call the ‘Denver formula’,” he said. he explains.

In addition to representing three West Virginia counties in the lawsuit, Woelfel is also one of 17 members of the ad hoc bankruptcy committee. He said Purdue’s settlement money would be filtered through many hands before it gets to the entities hardest hit by the opioid crisis.

“Certainly, there will be experts and professionals who consume too much of this money before it really comes to a reduction plan,” he explained.

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