Sackler Family Increases Offer to Settle Opioid Crisis Suits

Members of the Sackler family are now offering to contribute nearly $4.3 billion to help settle almost 3,000 lawsuits brought by various communities across the U.S. seeking to hold them and the company they owned, Purdue Pharma, responsible for damages wrought by the opioid epidemic, according to several sources.

Many pharmaceutical companies have had a hand in creating the opioid crisis, the ongoing public-health emergency in which as many as half a million Americans have lost their lives, but the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, were the leading edge of the epidemic. Purdue, which is owned by the Sackler family, has played a significant role in the crisis because it set out to persuade the American medical establishment in the 1990s that powerful opioids, like OxyContin, should be much more widely prescribed. They argued that physicians’ and critics’ fears about the addictive nature of these drugs were overblown.

When OxyContin hit the market in 1995 Purdue launched unprecedented and unrelenting marketing blitz, pushing the use of powerful opioids for a huge range of ailments. They asserted that its products led to addiction in “fewer than one percent” of patients. (New Yorker)

Now, in 2021, after hundreds of thousands of deaths, and multitudes more ruined lives, the Sackler family is now willing to contribute $4.275 billion to help settle about 3,000 lawsuits seeking to hold them and Purdue responsible for the damage that has been done. (Fox Business)

Under a plan filed on March 15th, Purdue Pharma file for bankruptcy and pay approximately $500 million in cash to settle the hundreds of thousands of claims linked to the company's role in this crisis. According to NPR, according to Purdue, additional payments would also be spread out over the next ten years, including roughly $4.2 billion.

Dozens of States Reject the Offer

No fixed schedule has been released to show when the disbursement(s) would occur, though Purdue Pharma predicted as much as $1 billion in additional payouts would happen by 2024. (NPR)

Almost immediately, dozens of state attorneys general rejected the offer.

"What the Sacklers are offering is a way for the payments to be structured that makes it convenient for them." - Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, via NPR.

"This plan does not go as far as it needs to." - North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, via 

Purdue Pharma has twice acknowledged illegally marketing OxyContin, which is now widely recognized as one of the most abused prescription drugs in the United States.

Taking the Profits for Themselves

While under scrutiny for the growing epidemic, the Sacklers were still raking in money from the sales of their product, so they siphoned off over $10 billion from the company. An audit by the consulting firm AlixPartners showed that over the first dozen years that OxyContin was approved — from 1995 through 2007 — Purdue’s payouts to the Sacklers totaled just over $1.3 billion. However, from 2008 through 2017, the payments ballooned to $10.7 billion. (New York Times)

The increased amount of money offered by members of the family was more than a billion dollars more than was offered last year.

In October, the Sacklers paid $225 million in damages as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, but admitted no wrongdoing in the process.

If approved, Purdue’s bankruptcy plan envisions the company being reborn independent of the Sacklers. That company would continue selling a variety of medications, including OxyContin.

Profits from that company would be funneled into various trusts, which would own the company indirectly.

According to
NPR, officials close to the negotiations said financial aid would flow to individuals, organizations, and communities harmed by the opioid epidemic.

The die has been cast and the thousands of deaths that have been caused due to Purdue Pharma and the Sackler Family’s greed is on full display for all to see. As the family attempts to pay its way out of legal trouble, the wreckage has already been done. It’s our hope that we, as a nation, finally see the errors of the healthcare system in our country and commit to changing it for the better.

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