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Opioid Drugs

Those Affected by Purdue’s OxyContin Want the Truth

— August 10, 2020

Victims on Purdue Pharma’s deceptive marketing practices want justice.

In filing for bankruptcy last fall, Purdue Pharma was able to provide itself with protection against the 2,600 federal and state lawsuits the drug maker was facing for its role in the opioid crisis.  Purdue’s move raised an automatic stay of civil litigation against the company while the Sackler family some members of the Sackler family did not have to face personal bankruptcy, although they too were granted a stay of litigation.  What’s more, the bankruptcy may also shield the billionaire family behind Purdue from any future claims against it, including holding members criminally liable for deceptively marketing OxyContin.

Editor’s note: LegalReader was given this statement from Dame Jillian Sackler addressing the improper use of the phrase “the Sackler Family” by media. Please read. As the communications firm that sent the statement put it:

The Sackler family is not a monolith. It includes descendants of brothers Raymond, Mortimer, and Arthur M. Sackler, who died in 1987, four years before his brothers founded the modern day Purdue and nearly a decade before OxyContin came to market.

Neither Arthur nor his heirs profited from OxyContin, nor are they named in any of the thousands of lawsuits brought against Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family. None of his considerable philanthropy derived from OxyContin.

Any reference to “the Sackler family” in past articles on our site should be read with the understanding provided by the above statements. 

Those who lost loved ones to opioids were given to the end of July to file claims of wrongful death and personal injury as creditors in the Purdue’s bankruptcy settlement, and stand a chance to get a fraction of the payout the company is offering.  At the same time, many are more concerned about making the drug maker admit liability than the money they’d pocket.

Those Affected by Purdue's OxyContin Want the Truth
Photo by Taras Chemus on Unsplash

“For many of us who have been in this fight for so long, the money means less,” said Barbara Van Rooyan, who form the Ad Hoc Committee on Accountability after her son’s opioid-related death. “The biggest asset they have is the truth.”  The committee consists of creditors seeking to use their participation in the bankruptcy case to push for transparency and the release of all of Purdue’s internal documents.

Van Rooyan filed for injunctive relief in the settlement and her filing comes with a demand for “the public disclosure of all Purdue Pharma documents including all documents that illuminate the financial and operational relationship between the Sacklers and Purdue.”  She also noted in the 2007 case against Purdue, “documents were kept hidden that would have changed the resolution of the case and most certainly the trajectory of the opioid crisis.”

“If I had known more at the time, my son might still be alive,” said Emily Walden, who lost her son in 2012 and now chairs FED UP! and is also a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Accountability.  Walden is filing a wrongful death claim.

A 2019 court filing against Purdue by the Massachusetts attorney general cited a speech in which former Purdue President Richard Sackler boasted that “the launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said at the time, “Their strategy was simple: The more drugs they sold, the more money they made, and the more people died.”

Purdue responded simply, “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.”  Bankruptcy soon followed.

The unsealed comment made by the Purdue’s president led to a demonstration at the Guggenheim Museum by the activist group PAIN, or Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, founded by artist Nan Goldin.  Protesters released a blizzard of fake Oxycontin prescriptions, each containing quoted sentiments from the Sacklers.

“The Sacklers and Purdue bank on the complexity of these processes,” said Harry Cullen, an activist with PAIN. “That’s part of the insidiousness of this bankruptcy.”

“Whether civil, criminal, or legislative, Purdue and the Sacklers have positioned their lawyers at every juncture of justice,” said Mike Quinn, an attorney for the Ad Hoc Accountability Committee, “But when the facts come out, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put Purdue back together again.”


The New Fight to Hold Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers Accountable for the Opioid Crisis

Massachusetts Joins Fight Against Purdue, Names Owners in Lawsuit

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