Sackler family may retain majority of wealth even despite opioid crisis settlement
The Sackler family has reportedly agreed to give up ownership of Purdue Pharma, in addition to paying $3 billion of their own funds to settle thousands of lawsuits from various U.S. states that allege the company has fueled the U.S. opioid crisis. However, new information suggests the family may not pay dime of its own money, will not go to jail, and will likely weather out the storm.
The settlement will address between $10 to $12 billion in lawsuits, while the Sacklers, renowned for their ability to dodge financial responsibility for their actions, are reportedly worth an estimated $13 billion.
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong did not comment on the proposed $12 billion settlement agreement but said that Purdue should be shut down and the Sackler Family should be forced to pay, reports The Washington Post.
Connecticut is only one of many states which has filed lawsuits against the pharmaceutical giant over a growing number of assertions that Purdue Pharma has been the sole creator of the opioid crisis through their deceptive marketing of OxyContin.
“Connecticut demands that the Sacklers and Purdue management be forced completely out of the opioid business, domestically and internationally, and that they never be allowed to return,’’ Tong said.
On August 31, Purdue reiterated its position regarding the settlement:
Purdue Pharma believes a settlement that benefits the American public now is a far better path than years of wasteful litigation and appeals. While the company is prepared to defend itself vigorously in the opioid litigation, Purdue has made clear that it prefers a constructive global resolution. We are actively working with state attorneys general and other plaintiffs on solutions that have the potential to save tens of thousands of lives and deliver billions of dollars to the communities affected by the opioid abuse crisis.
The prospective $10 to 12 billion settlement and forfeiture of Purdue comes after a lawsuit in May by the State of Pennsylvania in which the state alleges that the Oxycontin maker is the primary cause of today’s opioid epidemic. It further alleges that the epidemic was fueled in large part by Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing which underplayed the addictiveness of its products, despite knowing full well the dangerous and addictive nature of the opioid, and even went as far as intentionally targeting the most vulnerable to addiction, these being veterans and the elderly.
“We are suing the giant, the pharma lord who created Oxycontin,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday at a news conference.
“Purdue owes it to the thousands of Pennsylvanians who lost their lives to [drug overdoses] to stop making excuses and instead to take responsibility for their actions,” Shapiro added.
According to NBC News, Pennsylvania’s suit added more than 1,600 claims against Purdue.
More than three dozen states have sued Purdue over allegations that it aggressively marketed OxyContin while underplaying the drug’s addictive qualities, reports NBC News.
“Pennsylvania is among the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic. Roughly 5,390 Pennsylvanians died from drug overdoses in 2017 — more than any other state — and a majority of the deaths were caused by opioids, according to the 121-page lawsuit.”
According to the American-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Drug overdose deaths continue to increase in the United States. From 1999 to 2017, more than 702,000 people have died from a drug overdose. In 2017, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses, making it a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Of those deaths, almost 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.”
Opioid-related deaths in Canada are similarly appalling. In 2018 alone, the Public Health Agency of Canada reports that the number of apparent opioid-related deaths was 4,460, not including those in the Atlantic provinces. Between January 2016 and September 2018, it is estimated that 10,300 Canadians have died from opioid-related overdoses.
“Even when Purdue knew people were addicted and dying, Purdue treated patients and their doctors as ‘targets’ to sell more drugs,” Pennsylvania’s suit asserts. “Tragically, each part of Purdue’s campaign of deception earned the company more money, and caused more addiction and death.”
However, new information has recently come out that the Sackler family could easily pay off the recent settlement by selling another one of its pharmaceutical companies, Mundipharma, and, thus, retain most, if not all, of its wealth, reports The Washington Post.
“No one is going to be happy after this,” said Adam J. Levitin, a Georgetown Law School professor. “People are going to be mad that the Sacklers aren’t going to jail, that they will have money left.”