Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to opioid charges in $8bn settlement with US Department of Justice

pharmafile | October 22, 2020 | News story | Research and Development  

Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty to criminal charges filed due to its role in America’s opioid crisis and will pay a $8.3 billion settlement.

As part of the deal, the company will admit that it misled the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) through falsifying its drug diversion programme by reporting misleading information to the agency in order to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quota. The Department of Justice (DoJ) says the company also disregarded the red flags their own systems were sending. 

Purdue has also admitted to using a programme that hired speakers and encouraged them to write more prescriptions for the company’s opioid products like OxyContin, and to use electronic health records to influence the prescription of pain medication. This violates anti-kickback laws. The company also admitted it knowingly broke federal law by conspiring to aid and abet the dispensing of medicine to doctors without a legitimate purpose. 

The deal will see Purdue Pharma make an initial $225 million payment to the US Government, with the company ultimately required to pay a total sum of $2 billion. The company also will face a $3.54 billion criminal fine and a further $2.8 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability. The company currently does not have enough money to cover these payments, and the criminal fine will be taken through a bankruptcy that involves a number of other creditors. Due to Purdue not having enough funds to meet the rest of its obligations, the company will turn into a public benefit company which will be governed by a trust.

The Sackler family, who started the business, will not be involved in the new company, and a significant amount of the money they pay will go to aiding treatment and drug programmes to combat the opioid crisis. The Sackler family had already pledged to hand over the company before this deal and had paid $3 billion to resolve thousands of lawsuits. 

Despite the large sums being paid, and the company being handed over, many feel justice has not been done as the Sackler family have largely avoided individual criminal charges. The Attorney General of Massachusetts, Maura Healey, tweeted: “DOJ failed. Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Conor Kavanagh

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