Some good news about the Sackler bankruptcy case

The Sackler family are a really odious bunch, making enormous amounts of money by having their company Purdue Pharmaceuticals aggressively push the opioid OxyContin that their company made and providing all manner of inducements to doctors to overprescribe them, resulting in the massive opioid drug addiction problem that exists right now in the US. They then posed as philanthropists, giving money to various institutions and having their names plastered all over various buildings in universities and museums and galleries. I have written about the actions of this disgusting family many, many times.

The law finally caught up with them and they were sued and the company subjected to massive fines. But even then, they exploited the bankruptcy laws to shift the burden to the company after siphoning off money to them personally while not having to admit guilt, and getting total immunity from future lawsuits that will leave their personal fortunes intact. They did this by making sure that their bankruptcy case was heard by a bankruptcy judge who is notorious for letting wealthy people off easily.

While I was disgusted that the law enables rich people to manipulate the system and have their cases heard by a judge who is to their liking, I felt that there was nothing that could be done after the bankruptcy judge in September 2021 let them off the hook.

But I was wrong.

It appears that the Biden administration has challenged that bankruptcy deal, saying that it was an abuse of the bankruptcy process and yesterday the US Supreme Court has decided to take up the case and, in the meantime, has put the bankruptcy judge’s ruling on hold.

The US supreme court has agreed to hear a challenge by Joe Biden’s administration to the legality of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy settlement that would shield its owners from the Sackler family from lawsuits over their role in the country’s opioid epidemic.

The court also paused bankruptcy proceedings concerning Purdue and its affiliates and said in a brief order that it would hold oral arguments in December in the administration’s appeal of a lower court’s ruling upholding the settlement. The court’s new term begins in October.

Purdue’s owners under the settlement would receive immunity in exchange for paying up to $6bn to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by states, hospitals, people who had become addicted and others who have sued the Stamford, Connecticut-based company over its misleading marketing of OxyContin.

At issue is whether US bankruptcy law allows Purdue’s restructuring to include legal protections for the Sackler family, who have not filed for personal bankruptcy.

In a court filing, the administration told the supreme court that Purdue’s settlement is an abuse of bankruptcy protections meant for debtors in “financial distress,” not people like the Sacklers. According to the administration, Sackler family members withdrew $11bn from Purdue before agreeing to contribute $6bn to its opioid settlement.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the US Supreme Court will void the settlement after it hears the arguments. But I like the fact that its decision to hear the case will undoubtedly cause the Sacklers some stress.

As a refresher on the awfulness of the Sackler family and on why the original settlement was so bad, you can watch this episode of John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight back in 2021 that clearly explains how this travesty of justice came about. It is one of the best episodes of this excellent show.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    I watched that episode at the time. John Oliver is simultaneously very entertaining and very depressing. The guilty almost always get away, the only thing we get to do is mock them ruthlessly.

  2. Holms says

    Because pursuing those who largely caused the opioid epidemic implies banning all pain relief? What? But at least you have moved on from your ‘no one has explained what the Sacklers did wrong’ rigamarole.

  3. says

    No, Holms, the fact is that patients are being forced to deal with heavily rationed meds, frequently not enough to actually get them functional, and all because doctors are afraid the DEA — who, I remind you, are NOT doctors, and CANNOT practice medicine — will come and punish them for prescribing appropriate doses.

    The DEA has also managed to fuck over ADHD patients, as well, by severely limiting the amounts of Adderall (and similar drugs) that manufacturers are allowed to produce, leaving people either rationing, or completely without the medication they need to function.

  4. says

    Despite the “explanations” offered, the Sacklers are still not responsible for the completely nonexistent “opioid epidemic” moral panic.

    Opioids are 100% SAFE when used appropriately.

    If I buy an automobile, choose to ignore the manufacturer’s directions, choose to drive unsafely, and get hurt, that’s my fault for making a shitty choice.

    Likewise, if I am prescribed a medication, choose to ignore the instructions given with it, choose to double my doses, and suffer harm from that choice, that is also on me for making a shitty choice.

    It’s no different to the automobile example above, or any other product one might choose to misuse, abuse, or otherwise fuck around with.

    The recent surge in ODs is the result of pain patients being forced to seek out street drugs for relief after the DEA fucked them over.

    But go ahead, be dismissive, it’s all you know how to do, Holms.

  5. Holms says

    Oh god, you’ve clearly learned nothing from every other occasion this topic was discussed ever. Not knowing something is fine, but you’ve clearly made a choice to stay ignorant on this. I doubt I can get through to the intentionally ignorant, but at least your bullshit will not stand unopposed.

    Purdue falsified opioid testing data, putting lies into the scientific literature. They instructed their marketers push this false information to doctors, lying about the safety of opioids in order to encourage more frequent prescriptions of their drugs. They were convicted of this. This means your “100% safe when used appropriately” is fiction -- the safety margins are based on the data that was falsified, you goddamn clownshoes.

    And the Sacklers control Purdue, making them ultimately responsible for the whole mess.

  6. Holms says

    “But go ahead, be dismissive, it’s all you know how to do, Holms.”
    Like you are to your brother in his time of need?

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