The Sackler family are the owners of Purdue Pharma, maker of the powerful opioid OxyContin, the drug that has been a major contributor to the drug crisis that has killed so many people and ruined the lives of so many others. I have written before about how they relentless marketed the drug in their effort to get more money. The people in the pharmaceutical industry that pushed these drugs have been described as “drug dealers in lab coats”. Now ProPublica, that excellent investigative news organization that I financially support, has another report obtained from sealed testimony about their sleazy tactics to get doctors to prescribe more of the drug by giving them a false impression of its potency.
In May 1997, the year after Purdue Pharma launched OxyContin, its head of sales and marketing sought input on a key decision from Dr. Richard Sackler, a member of the billionaire family that founded and controls the company. Michael Friedman told Sackler that he didn’t want to correct the false impression among doctors that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, because the myth was boosting prescriptions — and sales.
“It would be extremely dangerous at this early stage in the life of the product,” Friedman wrote to Sackler, “to make physicians think the drug is stronger or equal to morphine….We are well aware of the view held by many physicians that oxycodone [the active ingredient in OxyContin] is weaker than morphine. I do not plan to do anything about that.”
“I agree with you,” Sackler responded. “Is there a general agreement, or are there some holdouts?”
Lawsuits against the company now abound and the Sacklers are reportedly exploring taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws that favor the wealthy and work against the rest of us to try and wriggle out of any financial reckoning for the harm they have done.
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma is exploring filing for bankruptcy as one of its options to address potentially significant liabilities from thousands of lawsuits alleging the drug maker contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the U.S., a source familiar with the matter confirmed to NBC News Monday.
The possible bankruptcy filing was first reported by Reuters.
The deliberations show how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the pharmaceutical company of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids.
As of 2019, no members of the Sackler family are on the Purdue board of directors, said a source familiar with the matter, although the family still owns the company.
The Sacklers have long tried to distance their family name from the company they owned so that they could move in elite social circles as pillars of the community. But while they tried to keep their involvement in the company on the down low, they were eager to put out their name elsewhere. Like so many people who have made a lot of money while contributing to the suffering of many, they posed as ‘philanthropists’, donating to museums and colleges and other institutions with their name prominently attached to buildings, exhibits, and the like, to hide the fact that they were ruthless money-grubbers. But that façade has now crumbled and they stand exposed as utterly rapacious.
It is high time that the name Sackler became a source of shame.