NEW YORK, March 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma filed today its Chapter 11 bankruptcy plan and disclosure statement before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain in New York. As anticipated, the funds allotted for the innocent infants and children swept up in the national opioid epidemic fell far short of ensuring that they receive critical health care, support, and monitoring during their early years.
Purdue's bankruptcy plan allots $750 million to certain victim classes seeking damages for Purdue's history of opioid sales, including babies and children born suffering from opioid dependency adult victims, and other parties.
Under the current plan, said to be valued at over $7 billion, in part funded by money from Sackler family members who are heirs to the Purdue fortune, almost none of the infants and children born dependent on opioids will be eligible for any payment at all. Of the few who make it through the claims process, an overwhelming majority will get no more than $3,500 from which attorney fees, expert costs, Medicaid lien resolution, and minor settlement costs will be deducted. Meanwhile, adult victims may receive significantly more.
Opioids were once prescribed freely to pregnant women. As of 2010, nearly one in three pregnant women in the United States were prescribed opioid painkillers. Many babies born to these mothers are at high risk of being themselves dependent upon opioids, experiencing severe withdrawals, and at risk of developing long-term effects of NAS. Between 2010 and 2017, the prevalence of babies born with NAS rose by 82.5 percent, increasing in all but two states. Tragically, an opioid-dependent baby is born in the United States every 15 minutes, and these infants and children will face lifelong physical, behavioral, and emotional health challenges.
Attorneys for the babies and children suffering from NAS and its long-term effects will have 21 days to file papers opposing the plan and argue that they deserve substantially more support.
"The proposed Purdue plan fails the most innocent of victims in the opioid crisis – babies and children whose mothers consumed opioids while they were in the womb. It wasn't their choice to be born dependent on drugs and yet their interests have been consistently brushed aside and forgotten in the venues where they are seeking relief, including in this bankruptcy," said Stephen New of West Virginia-based New, Taylor & Associates. "But we haven't forgotten them, and we will plan to strenuously oppose this Purdue plan and demonstrate that the babies deserve a far greater share of the victims' fund."
Unfortunately, mothers with opioid use disorder – and even those who were prescribed opioids like OxyContin while pregnant but took the medication responsibly – face the worst stigma of any population impacted by the opioid epidemic. The stigma surrounding these women keeps mothers from filing personal injury claims on behalf of their children because they fear punishment – including that their child may be taken away from them. That fear prevents these children from receiving the funds they need to live healthy lives.
The thousands of children born opioid dependent have been documented to suffer from long-term motor problems, such as problems with bones, muscles, and movement, in addition to developmental delays, such as reaching developmental milestones like walking, sitting, talking, and other activities of daily life. They may also experience learning or behavior challenges, speech and language problems, vision problems, trouble sleeping, and other potential struggles.
In many cases, grandparents become the guardians of babies born to those suffering from opioid addiction who would otherwise end up in foster care. According to congressional estimates, in 2019, 2.5 million grandparents became primary caregivers of their grandchildren due to the opioid epidemic. Grandparents, often living on fixed incomes, suddenly find themselves responsible for children suffering from a constellation of medical and emotional conditions. These families are in dire financial situations, and a $3,500 gross settlement per child before expenses will effectively do nothing to help these families.
"Infants of the opioid crisis are not similarly situated to government entities and other victims who have different and far less complicated legal remedies. There is no 'quick fix' for NAS and the long-term effects that being born dependent on opioids can cause," said Scott Bickford of New Orleans-based Martzell, Bickford & Centola, a lead attorney for attorneys seeking to protect the children's interests. "We are only beginning to understand the impact of NAS and the resources children need to live healthy lives and even survive infancy. This will require decades of care – evaluation, treatment, and monitoring – costing much more than what Purdue has set aside for them in their plan. It will cost billions, and we will make the case for that in the next several weeks."
A major share of the victims' fund will be allocated to adult victims, including those in recovery, an approach that experts consider dangerous and unwise because it will provide a direct infusion of cash that could worsen their addiction disease, cause relapse, or even lead to deaths.
"We believe that all parties who can show harm due to Purdue's actions have the right to receive relief," Bickford said. "However, the infants and children swept up in this epidemic deserve and need much more than what Purdue is offering to have a chance at survival and to live healthy lives. We will not settle for this, and our fight continues."
Find out about these issues here: http://opioidjusticeteam.com/opioid-infants/
About the Opioid Justice Team
The Opioid Justice Team (OJT) is a group of attorneys working with doctors and national and local nongovernmental organizations fighting to end our nation's opioid epidemic. The OJT seeks not only compensation for damages for their clients but also a comprehensive settlement that will address the root causes of the opioid crisis. For more information, please visit http://opioidjusticeteam.com/.
Caroline Beckmann – Trident DMG
SOURCE Opioid Justice Team