Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty to illegally pushing its infamous OxyContin product and faces a potential $8.3 billion in federal penalties, the New York Times reports. Members of the wealthy Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, also agreed to pay $225 million in civil penalties. Prosecutors with the Department of Justice, however, said that further criminal charges against Purdue executives and the Sacklers themselves were not yet off the table.
OxyContin — which was first released on the market in the mid-1990s — is widely considered an early driving factor of the ongoing opioid crisis that has killed more than 450,000 Americans. Purdue has been accused of pushing the addictive opioid too aggressively and with illegal marketing tactics that included financial kickbacks to doctors who overprescribed the drug.
Steve Miller, chairman of the board for Purdue, said, “Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts.”
The Sackler family issued a statement, however, that they “acted ethically and lawfully,” and that, “The board relied on repeated and consistent assurances from Purdue’s management team that the company was meeting all legal requirements.” The Sacklers — who are worth an estimated $13 billion, largely due to OxyContin sales — are also controversially seeking to have the family dropped from the litigation process as part of the Purdue settlement conditions.
The federal settlement is only the latest development in a large and crowded effort to hold Purdue accountable, which includes litigation from states, tribes, counties, and cities from around the US who claim the company’s aggressive marketing fueled the opioid crisis and resulted in massive costs related to health care, law enforcement, and unemployment. According to the report, however, the company is unlikely to pay anything close to the $8.3 billion settlement because it sought bankruptcy protection in light of the many lawsuits it faced.
Critics also suggested that the federal settlement was rushed to create a win for President Trump ahead of the upcoming election — Trump’s promise to address the opioid crisis was a big focus of his 2016 campaign.
“The D.O.J. 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.” — Maura Healey, the Massachusetts Attorney General, via the NY Times
A final settlement for the individuals, states, tribes, counties, and cities who are also seeking compensation for the crisis could total more than $10 billion and is expected early next year.