The Sackler family has made billions of dollars by pushing doctors to aggressively prescribe the opioids produced by their company Purdue Pharmaceuticals to patients, thus helping cause the passive prescription drug addiction problem that has ranged so many families and communities. They then donated money to universities and other cultural institution that put their name on buildings to enable them to pose as philanthropists.
They have now been exposed for the evil people they are and as a result of the many lawsuits against the company, Purdue has sued for bankruptcy. Yesterday, with great fanfare, the department of justice announced a settlement with the company for $8 billion dollars in fines and damages. But there is less to this than meets the eye and the Sackler family actually got off easy as wealthy people do in the US.
But on Wednesday, Purdue Pharma laid that strategy to waste by agreeing to plead guilty to three criminal charges and pay $8bn in fines and damages. The company admitted to bribing doctors to unnecessarily prescribe OxyContin and to lying to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about controls on sales of the painkiller. It also paid illegal kickbacks to a health records company to promote opioid prescribing to physicians.
“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct,” said the chairman of its board, Steve Miller.
But while Purdue’s long-awaited admission of wrongdoing over an an epidemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives over the past 21 years was widely welcomed, there was also anger over the US justice department’s failure to prosecute company executives responsible for the crimes, and suspicion about the timing of the announcement just before the election.
But Emily Walden, chair of the Fed Up! coalition of families harmed by opioids, said that with Purdue already bankrupt there is little chance of the money being paid to help the victims.
Other critics dismissed the deal as a political stunt intended to allow Donald Trump to present it as another promise fulfilled after he pledged to hold the drug industry to account for an epidemic that has run on for more than two decades.
In this deal, the Sackler family’s private fortunes remain largely untouched. The family and senior company executives need to be punished, both financially and in terms of serving prison time, for all the suffering caused by their greed.
One hopes that the other lawsuits will keep that threat alive.