Sackler family refuse to pay billions for opioid crisis unless given immunity

pharmafile | August 18, 2021 | News story | Research and Development  

The Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma, vowed in court on Tuesday that unless they are granted legal immunity, they would not pay up for their role in the US opioid pandemic.

David Sackler, a former Purdue Director, made his statement during the virtual trial in a White Plains, he said Purdue’s products have helped millions of people, but acknowledged that they had contributed to the opioid crisis and said his family bears “a moral responsibility to help, and that’s what this settlement is designed to do.”

Sackler also told a lawyer for the US bankruptcy trustee: “We need a release that’s sufficient to get our goals accomplished.

“If the release fails to do that, we will not support it.”

The deal is supported by a wide range of states, municipalities, hospitals and others, but the US Bankruptcy Trustee, nine states and the District of Columbia are objecting to the company’s settlement plan largely because it would grant legal protection to members of the wealthy Sackler family even though none of them are declaring bankruptcy themselves.

Since bringing OxyContin onto the market in 1996, Purdue Pharma has been accused of ignoring warnings that opioids are highly addictive.

The company is also alleged to have pressured doctors and pharmacies to prescribe the strongest possible doses of opioids to patients suffering from chronic pain.

More than 500,000 Americans have died since 1999 from opioid overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purdue Chairman Steve Miller said in a statement after pleading on the company’s behalf: “Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts.

“Resolving the DOJ investigations is an essential step in our bankruptcy process. The settlement agreement will pave the way for Purdue to submit a plan of reorganization to the bankruptcy court that will transfer all of Purdue’s assets to a public benefit company, and ultimately deliver more than $10billion in value to claimants and communities.”

Some critics of Purdue’s bankruptcy argue that the Chapter 11 proceedings have allowed the drugmaker’s owners to avoid accountability for their role in the US opioid crisis.

The concept has sparked protests, as well as federal legislation known as the SACKLER Act that would bar these deals, known as third-party releases.

As reported in The Guardian, activist groups held a rally Monday outside the White Plains, New York, courthouse, urging that the deal not be approved.

Megan Kapler, said at the protest: “They are opioid profiteers who have caused mass death and they sit pretty in this court.

“And it’s not right.”

Lilly Subbotin

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