It’s Time for Accountability

Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty To 3 Opioid Criminal Charges

by Suzette Gomez | November 6, 2020 ❘ 

On October 21, 2020, Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to 3 federal criminal charges. These charges are a direct response to the opioid epidemic spreading in the United States. According to experts, the company helped drive the opioid crisis. This problem has led to more than 470,000 opioid-related deaths since 2000. 

Charges against Purdue Pharma include:

  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • Violating federal anti-kickback.
  • Marketing opioids to doctors that it suspected of writing illegal prescriptions.

For years groups and states have tried to seek justice for the thousands of people affected by opioids. Purdue Pharma and other pharmaceutical companies have avoided taking ownership of the epidemic. This historic settlement is the highest-profile display of corporate accountability. The new $8.3 billion deal was announced on Wednesday by the U.S. Justice Department. Unfortunately, the likelihood of the company paying the $8.3 billion negotiated is slim.

The Sackler Family and Bankruptcy

A few weeks ago, the owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, were ordered to pay $3 billion to New York state. The settlement was an attempt from New York state to hold the pharmaceutical company’s executives and owners accountable. A few days after the hearing, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2020. This filing was in response to the recent $3 billion settlement and more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company. By filing for bankruptcy, Purdue Pharma is now under court protection. The chapter 11 filing guards the company against the many cases they face. Altogether, the settlements average out to about $10 billion and $12 billion. However, before the federal government sees even a penny of the settlement money, they will first have to wait behind a long line of creditors. 

Apart from the $8.3 billion settlement that Purdue Pharma must pay, the Sackler family is also responsible for civil penalties. Each member involved on the Purdue Pharma board (active or inactive) must pay $225 million. The owners of the almost 130-year-old company may face criminal charges as well. A lawsuit in New York city accuses the company owners and its executives of deliberately misleading the American public. They believe the Sackler family and its executives used aggressive and misleading marketing. According to New York State, their tactics led to the overprescribing of opioids. Since 2003 OxyContin has generated the Sackler family between $1 to 3 billion in annual sales. OxyContin sales made up most of the family’s wealth. This $13 billion fortune is distributed between about 20 of its family members. 

Purdue Pharma’s Long List of Charges and Lawsuits

Purdue Pharma is viewed as a leader of the opioid epidemic since the mid-90s. Their aggressive tactics paved the way for misleading drug marketing. They are accused of downplaying addiction risks and pushing physicians to increase dosages. Over the years, these accusations have led to many lawsuits worldwide.

In 2007 Purdue Pharma was accused by the federal government of misbranding OxyContin. In response, they paid over $600 million to settle the federal charges. Fast forward to 2015, Purdue made a similar deal with Kentucky. They agreed to pay $24 million to Kentucky State. To settle another opioid-related lawsuit, they paid Oklahoma State $270 million. 

Over the past few decades, Purdue Pharma and other drug retailers, manufacturers, and distributors were sued by:

  • Counties
  • Cities
  • Native American tribes
  • Other groups

Prosecutors consolidated the long list of charges before a federal court judge in Cleveland. Yet, most states have sued the company in their courts.

A Win Against the Opioid Epidemic

The recent acknowledgment by Purdue Pharma is a win against the opioid epidemic. The new settlement did not grant immunity to its owners or leaders. OxyContin’s creators have become the leading antagonist in this war. More than half of the states and prosecutors want the Sackler family to pay more. The criminal investigations against the Sackler family will continue. 

This case helps pave the way for so many other opioid victims. By holding founders and executives accountable for their companies’ actions, the opioid epidemic can improve. This agreement can pave the path to thousands of similar lawsuits seeking justice.  

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