Purdue Pharma Agrees To Plead Guilty To 3 Opioid Criminal Charges

On October 21, 2020, the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty to 3 federal criminal charges. According to experts, the company helped drive the Opioid epidemic which led to the death of more than 470,000 people since 2000. The new $8.3 billion settlement was announced on Wednesday by the U.S. Justice Department.

Charges against Purdue Pharma include:

  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States.
  • Violating federal anti-kickback.
  • Marketing Opioids to more than 100 doctors that it suspected of writing illegal prescriptions.

This historic settlement is the highest profile display of the federal government seeking corporate accountability. Unfortunately, the likelihood of the company paying the $8.3 billion negotiated is slim.

The Sackler Family

A few weeks ago in September the Sackler family (owners of Purdue Pharma) was ordered to pay $3 billion of their own money in cash during a settlement. The settlement was an attempt from New York state to hold not only the firm but its owners accountable for its wrongdoings. A few days after the hearing Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2020. This filing was in response to more than 2,000 lawsuits against the company. All together the settlements average out to about $10 billion and $12 billion. By filing for bankruptcy, Purdue Pharma is now under court protection and the federal court will first have to wait behind a long line of creditors before it sees a dime.

Apart from the $8.3 billion settlement the Sackler family must also pay civil penalties. A lawsuit in New York City accuses the company and its leaders of deliberately betraying their pharmaceutical duties under the state’s laws. They speculate that the Sackler family and its executives placed profit over state regulations. The owners of the almost 130-year-old company were ordered to pay $225 million per member. They may potentially face criminal charges as well. This notorious family which is sole owner of Purdue Pharma generated most of their wealth through OxyContin sales. Since 2003 OxyContin has generated the Sackler family more than $2 billion. This fortune is distributed between about 20 of its family members but the exact number is unknown.

Purdue Pharma’s Long List of Charges and Lawsuits

Since the mid-90s Purdue Pharma has been seen as an early driver of the opioid epidemic. Their pioneering and aggressive tactics paved the way for misleading drug marketing. The privately-owned company is accused of downplaying addiction risks and pushing physicians to increase dosages. These accusations have led to multiple lawsuits over the years.

In 2007 Purdue Pharma paid over $600 million to settle federal charges that its misbranded OxyContin. Fast-forward to 2015 Purdue also made a similar deal with Kentucky and agreed to pay $24 million to settle. In Oklahoma Purdue paid $270 million to the state of Oklahoma to settle another opioid lawsuit. Though the company has settled with multiple states it has never admitted any wrongdoing until recently.

Over the past few decades Purdue Pharma and other drug retailers, manufacturers, and distributors have been sued by:

  • Counties
  • Cities
  • Native American tribes
  • Other groups

The long list of charges has been consolidated before a federal court judge in Cleveland, however most states have sued the company in their own courts.

A Win Against The Opioid Epidemic

The recent charges against Purdue Pharma and their acknowledgement are a win for the war against the Opioid epidemic. Though the federal court and Purdue Pharma reached an agreement they are still being held responsible. The Sackler’s were not granted immunity. Criminal investigations on its owners and leaders are set to continue and they are scheduled to lose all control over their company.

The OxyContin’s creators have become a leading symbol of corporate America’s greed and the government’s pursuit to stop them. More than half of the states and the lawyers representing the municipalities want the Sackler family to contribute more, even though family members claim they acted “ethically and lawfully.” This new deal can pave the path to thousands of similar lawsuits seeking justice. By holding founders and executives accountable for the actions of their companies, real progress can be made to improve the Opioid epidemic. The money collected in these settlements will go to Opioid treatment and abatement programs.