On Tuesday, the state of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the multi-billionaire Sackler family over the role their drug OxyContin has played in sparking one of the worst addiction and overdose epidemics in history. The lawsuit accuses the company, Purdue Pharma, and its heirs of spinning a “web of illegal deceit” which fueled the deadly crisis in which America currently finds itself.
What sets this lawsuit apart from the numerous other lawsuits targeting opioid manufacturers — including several against Purdue — is that it has taken the landmark step of personally naming the company’s executives.
According to Maura Healy, Massachusetts state attorney general, the suit names 16 current and former executives and board members, including the chief executive, Craig Landau, and eight members across three generations of the Sackler family that wholly owns Purdue.
“Purdue Pharma and its executives built a multi-billion-dollar business based on deception and addiction. We’re suing,” Healey tweeted Tuesday.
Purdue Pharma and its executives built a multi-billion-dollar business based on deception and addiction. We’re suing. https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/06/12/sues-opioid-maker-purdue-pharma/a8iH4zK5sWs055dbebT7GN/story.html …
As the Guardian reports, the lawsuit alleges Purdue deceived patients and doctors about the risks of opioids, pushed prescribers to keep patients on the drugs longer and aggressively targeted vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and veterans.
“Their strategy was simple: the more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died,” Healey said on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Purdue issued a statement in response to the lawsuit in which they denied all allegations.
“We share the attorney general’s concern about the opioid crisis. We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process,” the company said in a statement. “We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions.”
According to reports, in just the last decade, in the state of Massachusetts alone, the company sold 70 million doses of prescription opioids, bringing in more than half a billion in revenue.
“It was Purdue’s executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few while leaving a path of devastation and destruction in its wake,” Healey said.
According to Healey, more than 670 Massachusetts residents have died solely from the result of ingesting the Sackler family’s drugs.
Purdue, along with several other companies who knowingly pushed opioids on people who did not need them, is facing more than 300 lawsuits from city and county authorities across the country. However, this is the first one which goes after the individuals who became exceedingly wealthy from the sale of this drug.
According to the Guardian, the Sacklers being sued are: Theresa and Beverly, the widows of the brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler who built the company into the narcotics giant it is today; Ilene, Kathe and Mortimer David Alfons Sackler, three of Mortimer’s children; Jonathan and Richard Sackler, Raymond’s two sons; and David Sackler, Raymond’s grandson. These family members and a number of their siblings and children are collectively worth an estimated $13bn, according to Forbes, with the vast bulk of the fortune generated from sales of OxyContin. Feuding family members have mostly declined to talk about the opioids crisis and avoid discussing their links to it.
As TFTP previously reported, Purdue Pharma, under the guidance of brothers Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer Sackler, began a propaganda campaign to push their new drug, as described in The American Journal of Public Health, “The Promotion and Marketing of OxyContin: Commercial Triumph, Public Health Tragedy.”
One of the primary missions of Purdue Pharma was to identify the doctors across America prescribing the most pain medication and strategically marketed the drug directly to them as a safe alternative to other pain medications.
According to the LA Times:
“The Times’ investigation, published in July, disclosed that for more than a decade, an internal security team at Purdue monitored doctors and pharmacies it suspected of colluding with dealers and addicts. In the case of the L.A. ring, criminals set up a phony clinic near MacArthur Park in 2008 and worked with corrupt physicians and pharmacies to obtain pills over 18 months.
A Purdue sales manager dispatched to investigate the high volume of prescriptions at the clinic found a rundown building thronged with rough men and urged supervisors to alert the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying she was “very certain this is an organized drug ring.”
Despite her pleas and additional evidence suggesting that pills were pouring into the hands of criminals, company officials did not go to authorities until years later when the drug ring was out of business and its leaders under indictment. By then, 1.1 million pills had spilled into the illicit pipeline.”
These disturbing revelations came after a prior investigation that found Purdue maintained a secret Purdue database of 1,800 suspect doctors, but only about 10 percent of them were reported to law enforcement.
As doctors began to readily hand out this new drug, these high dose pills became a scourge across main street America. Drug users increasingly turned to OxyContin for the powerful high and euphoric effects, comparable to heroin, but which can reportedly last for over eight hours.
Instead of investigating the company for their overt and dangerous tactics, the government and establishment welcomed them into their ranks. Even after dozens of lawsuits exposing this corruption, in an entirely irresponsible and hypocritical move, the FDA approved a measure to give OxyContin to children.
The fact that some people are freely allowed to market potentially deadly drugs, while others are thrown in a cage for the same activity, seems to highlight that not all people are equal in the eyes of the state or the law. Hopefully, this landmark lawsuit will expose this insidious paradigm.
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