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Massachusetts Joins Fight Against Purdue, Names Owners in Lawsuit

— June 20, 2018

Massachusetts Joins Fight Against Purdue, Names Owners in Lawsuit

Purdue Pharma has now been used by Massachusetts, the latest state joining the battle against the maker of the opioid prescription painkiller Oxycontin.  The state has accused the company of spinning “a web of illegal deceit” that fueled the nation’s drug epidemic while its leadership made an astronomical profit.  Massachusetts is the first state to personally name Purdue’s executives in its complaint, according to the state’s Attorney General Maura Healey.  In the court documents, sixteen current and former executives and board members are listed, including the company’s current CEO Craig Landau and the owners of Purdue, the Sackler family.

Theresa and Beverly, the widows of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler who built Purdue are named, as well as Ilene, Kathe and Mortimer David Alfons Sackler, three of Mortimer’s children; Jonathan and Richard Sackler, Raymond’s sons; and David Sackler, Raymond’s grandson.  The owners and their family is collectively worth an estimated $13 billion – income generated mainly from the sale of OxyContin.

Massachusetts’ lawsuit also alleges that the pharmaceutical company and its owners target vulnerable veteran and elderly citizens in marketing their painkillers.  “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died,” said Healey.  The paperwork indicates that Purdue’s leadership encouraged its “deadly misconduct” in order to generate as much as possible in revenue.

Photo by Simon Wijers on Unsplash

Purdue responded, “We share the attorney general’s concern about the opioid crisis.  We are disappointed, however, that in the midst of good faith negotiations with many states, the Commonwealth has decided to pursue a costly and protracted litigation process.  We will continue to work collaboratively with the states toward bringing meaningful solutions.”  Similar statements have been offered in response to litigation against the company in the past.  It also has vigorously denied all allegations against it and said it looks forward to presenting “substantial defenses” to the claims in Massachusetts’ filing.

The sale of more than 70 million doses of prescription opioids in Massachusetts over the last ten years brought in more than $500 million for Purdue and its executives.  “It was Purdue’s executives who led and directed this illegal business model, leading to addiction and deception to enrich a few, while leaving the path of devastation and destruction in its wake,” Healey added after filing the complaint.

Purdue settled lawsuits with 26 states, including the state of Massachusetts, in 2007 for $19.5 million when they accused the drugmaker of marketing Oxycontin to physicians while downplaying its risks, particularly the risk of addiction.  The company never admitted to any wrongdoing.

The manufacturer is now facing over 300 lawsuits from city and county authorities across the U.S.  These have been directed into a multi-district case in the federal court in Ohio.  The expectation is to push for a fair and quick settlement in order to compensate those who’ve been affected by the crisis.  This set-up is similar to the “Big Tobacco settlement” with cigarette companies in the 1990s.  However, as time lingers on, many have begun to question what exactly is meant by “quick,” and many experts are pushing for trial, which would allow for discovery.


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