The president of the Kentucky state Senate said Wednesday that he plans to file a motion to intervene in support of a legal effort by STAT to unseal documents filed in a case involving OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.
The secret documents were filed as part of a lawsuit by the state of Kentucky against Purdue Pharma that was settled in December 2015, with Purdue paying $24 million to the state. The documents include a deposition of Dr. Richard Sackler, a former president of Purdue and a member of the family that owns the company; internal emails about the marketing of the drug; minutes of strategy meetings; analysis by the company of clinical trials; and other documents.
Senate President Robert Stivers said shielding the records from public view was “inappropriate,” particularly considering the impact the abuse of the prescription opioid painkiller OxyContin had on Kentucky. He also criticized the state attorney general, Andy Beshear, for not moving to support the unsealing of the records.
“We believe the record should be open and we don’t understand why this attorney general has not gone back in and moved to unseal the records,” Stivers, a Republican, said during a news conference. He said the attorney general should move to unseal the records even if it means undoing the state’s settlement with Purdue.
“I say risk it,” he said. Stivers added he doubts Purdue wants “to go back and try this in the Pike Circuit Court in the light of day. “
In his own news conference, Beshear said the settlement with Purdue bars his office from releasing the sealed documents and that the case is “fully settled and over.” He also pointed out the agreement with Purdue was struck by his predecessor. The attorney general’s office, in a notice filed with the court in the STAT case, said it was not taking a position on the request to unseal the records.
Beshear, a Democrat, said the comments by Stivers were a “political shot.” He also said Stivers has been supportive of the Purdue settlement in the past and pointed out that some of the proceeds of the deal went to a treatment center in the senator’s district.
STAT filed a motion in March 2016 to unseal the records in the Kentucky case. Two months later, Pike Circuit Court Judge Steven Combs ordered the documents unsealed. Purdue appealed his ruling to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which held a hearing on the matter this week. The appeals court said it expects to rule on the matter in 30 to 45 days.
Stivers acknowledged his request to intervene in the case may be unsuccessful. He said he plans to file a motion with the court within the next week. “If the court denies it, they deny it,” he said.
Stivers also said the release of the documents is important to evaluate whether the $24 million payment from Purdue represented a good settlement for Kentucky. The state originally filed the case in 2007. Two prior attorneys general valued the case at between $100 million and $1 billion. Stivers said the state settled for “pennies on the dollar.”