People in pain are perhaps the most vulnerable. This is a fact that is not lost on Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. Being directly responsible for the creation of OxyContin and its distribution, they have contributed to hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths in the name of profit.
That may sound harsh, but there’s no other way to look at the criminal acts perpetrated, and the stunning amount of money that was generated by it.
For those unaware, OxyContin is an opioid medication used to treat intense pain. Opioids are easy to become addicted to and form a dependency, and the rate of overdoses in the United States is staggering. Though perhaps widely known, a huge opioid crisis has been raging for years now, resulting in an unbelievable death toll.
OxyContin is not the only contributing factor, but going off 2018 statistics from drugabuse.gov, 128 die from opioid use every single day. The CDC estimates that the financial damage to our economy from this public health disaster is nearly $80 billion… every year.
And this is where the lawsuits come into play. Because what has further exacerbated the opioid issue is the willful and very illegal actions companies like Purdue Pharma took to get their product into as many people’s hands as possible.
Among their tactics was the practice of encouraging doctors to prescribe the drug. This included targeted advertising of sorts to medical professionals and direct kickbacks for doctors willing to get their patients on OxyContin. This even effected the people not being prescribed, as filling unnecessary prescriptions siphons money out of Medicare and Medicaid.
These monstrous acts have caught up to them, however, as thankfully Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are finally being held accountable. They’ve already pleaded guilty and agreed to a settlement of over $8 billion. Further, the Sackler family, who’ve gained substantial wealth from OxyContin, is being removed from the company. Purdue is slated to become a public benefit company, with one of its efforts being to distribute anti-addiction medication.
A few wrinkles remain, however. One of which is that Purdue is filing bankruptcy, meaning a substantial amount of its money owed will not go to where it’s supposed to go. The other is that the Sackler family has, over the past few years, moved money out of the company into other places.
And if these essentially reduced fines levied don’t feel like enough to you, you’re not alone. About half of the states oppose some part of this outcome. It’s not odd to feel like the penalties and reparations are not nearly enough to count for the devastation. And to be clear, it is devastation.
Both the police and medical institutions must deal with the cases and costs associated with the overdoses and addiction… not to mention the actual loss of real human lives.
The Sackler family themselves are not being freed from further retribution though, which might come as a point of catharsis for those suffering. The family is still under scrutiny and is currently under investigation. And, even if nothing else comes to light, a lot of organizations that the family had donated to are distancing themselves from the Sacklers. They might not be hit as hard as some want, but they are seeing more and more repercussions.
Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for healthcare in the United states. Other opioid manufacturers are declaring bankruptcy as well, and more eyes will be on the opioid crisis and those trying to unethically profit from it. High visibility cases such as this can start a domino effect and lead to a sharp reduction of unneeded opioid prescriptions.