The opioid epidemic has ravished this country since the late 1990s, and many users and experts have blamed pharmaceutical companies. According to the Center for Disease Control website, “From 1999–2018, almost 450,000 people died from an overdose involving any opioid, including prescription and illicit opioids.” Now, one pharmaceutical company is being held accountable for their part in this national crisis.
Purdue Pharma is the company that produces the highly addictive opioid Oxycontin. When the company first introduced the “miracle drug” in 1996, an aggressive campaign to market Oxycontin began. Drug representatives downplayed Oxycontin’s addictive nature and offered financial incentives to medical facilities and doctors to prescribe the medication. Once said to be rumors, these accusations are now admissions from the company as part of a settlement with the United States Department of Justice.
In a release issued Wednesday, the Associated Press announced via Twitter, “Justice Department officials tell The Associated Press that Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion.” This comes after years of investigation into Purdue by the DOJ. United States Deputy Attorney General, Jeff Rosin, held a presser Wednesday to announce the deal. Three felony charges were admitted to by Purdue, and a civil resolution was reached with Purdue and members of the Sackler family, shareholders in Purdue Pharma. The charges brought against the big pharma juggernaut are conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws from 2009 to 2017.
If federal courts approve the agreement, Purdue will pay $225 million to the DOJ, $1.7 billion to settle pending lawsuits, $3.54 billion in criminal fines, and $2.8 billion in civil penalties. The Sackler Family agreed to relinquish the company’s control, creating a trust aimed at producing drugs to treat addiction but will still produce Oxycontin. The Sacklers will also pay $225 million in civil penalties. Perdue chairman, Steve Miller, said, “Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice.” The Sackler family released a statement stating, “We reached today’s agreement to facilitate a global resolution that directs substantial funding to communities in need, rather than to years of legal proceedings.” They also expressed “deep compassion for people who suffer from opioid addiction and abuse and hope the proposal will be implemented as swiftly as possible to help address their critical needs.”
Purdue and the Sacklers are being sued by other entities aside from the federal government, including many US states. Purdue has suggested a proposal that will pay $10 billion to settle the other claims. The Sacklers signaled they would provide $3 billion towards the wider settlement. The former board members maintain that they conducted business within the law’s limits, acting “ethically and lawfully.”
Victims of the opioid crisis are not pleased with the decision to settle with Purdue and the Sacklers. Families of individuals who died of overdoses and people dealing with addiction and addiction recovery did not find relief in a settlement and want the Sackler family jailed to contribute to the deaths of thousands of people.