Richard Sackler replies ‘I don’t know’ when asked about personal involvement in the opioid crisis.
Richard Sackler, now 76, and the former president and board chair of Purdue Pharma, told the court recently that he and his family were not responsible for the devastating opioid crisis. Sackler was the president of the company from 1999 to 2003, chair of its board from 2004 through 2007, and a board member from 1990 until 2018. This is a punch in the gut for those parties who hadn’t wanted to settle because they felt that Sackler family was getting off the hook too easily.
In court, Judge Robert Drain specifically asked Sackler whether he and his family bears responsibility, giving him an opportunity to answer a series of questions to which he responded “No.” His denial of responsibility comes just one day after another Sackler family member said, as a whole, they wouldn’t accept a settlement without a guarantee of immunity.
In the 1996 launch of OxyContin sales, Sackler told the company’s reps there would be “a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.” Just five years later it became apparent that the highly addictive drug was being misused. Instead of intervening right then and there and developing a planned response to stop the aftermath of addiction, he referred to addicts as the culprits of the issue.
Sackler said in an email that Purdue Pharma would have to “hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” referring to them as “the culprits and the problem.” Now, during the bankruptcy proceedings, he’s asserting ignorance as to how many people were misusing the drug.
Sackler is the son of Purdue Pharma’s co-founder Raymond Sackler. His testimony in court and a rare public appearance both follow that of his son, David Sackler, and largely echo David’s own words.
Maryland Assistant Attorney General Brian Edmunds urged Sackler to talk about the public health issue resulting from opioid abuse. When asked if he knew how many people had died from misuse of OxyContin in the U.S., Sackler responded, “I don’t know.” When asked how many people had died from OxyContin, he again responded, “I do not know.” The information really isn’t all that hard to derive from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) estimate that nearly 500,000 people have died from opioid overdoses, including prescription and illicit opioids, in the ten-year span from 1999 to 2019.
Later in his testimony, Richard Sackler stated quite matter-of-factly neither his family nor Purdue Pharma “bear any responsibility for the opioid crisis.” David Sackler said that the family has a “moral responsibility to fight the opioid crisis,” but that OxyContin’s role in it was “unintentional.”
Richard Sackler said he wasn’t sure whether he’d have to personally dish out any money to contribute to the deal. In his testimony, he stated, “I don’t think that’s been decided yet.” He later clarified that he was talking about “monies in my checking account.” Overall, it doesn’t seem any of the members of the Sackler family involved in the matter want to own up to their involvement.