Vermont is next in line to file suit against eight members of the Sackler family.
Following suit behind many other states and perhaps after witnessing Oklahoma’s success in settling with the now-infamous family behind Purdue Pharma, Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan says he’s filed suit against eight Sacklers, seeking remedy for the alleged damage caused by OxyContin, one of the highly addictive drugs believed to be responsible for the opioid crisis. In his filing, Donovan alleged that “or over two decades the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, minimized the health risks of opioids, claiming the prescription drugs were rarely the cause of abuse, addiction or death,” according to the lawsuit. He added that the Sacklers “directed Purdue to promote products that were more dangerous, addictive and lucrative.”
Of his decision, Donovan said, “The Sackler defendants directed and condoned deceptive acts that led to the full-blown opioids crisis. Thousands of Vermonters’ lives have been impacted – and some ruined or lost – as a result of this crisis.”
Last September, Vermont submitted its lawsuit against Purdue Pharma and this move is an extension of the still pending litigation. After the lawsuit was filed, Purdue submitted a statement indicating it “shared Vermont’s concerns about the opioid crisis,” but denied any wrongdoing.
The family called the latest allegations “baseless” and said it is a “misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis.” The Sacklers added, “We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them.”
By March of this year, more than 600 cities, counties, and Native American tribes from 28 states had filed a federal lawsuit against the eight members of the family. Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers have already agreed to a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma with $200 million of the funds set to go towards establishing a national center for addiction treatment at the Oklahoma State University Center for Wellness and Recovery in Tulsa, and the rest to be allocated to local governments or used to pay off legal fees.
Two other defendants remain in the case brought by Oklahoma – Johnson & Johnson and Teva Pharmaceuticals. The state’s Attorney General Mike Hunter previously said he believes Johnson & Johnson (J&J) actually acted as the kingpin, “serving as a top supplier, seller and lobbyist” driving the crisis. If one takes a closer look at the portfolio of the ‘family company,’ Hunter argued, “they will find that it produced raw narcotics in Tasmanian poppy fields, created other active opioid ingredients, and then supplied the products to other opioid drug manufacturers like Purdue Pharma.” He added, “J&J targeted vulnerable populations, including children and older adults, for painkiller prescriptions. J&J funded groups that aggressively advocated for easy access to opioids…[The company has also] funded several pro-opioid groups, such as the Pain Care Forum.”
At the time of the Oklahoma settlement, Alexandra Lahav, a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, said Purdue was likely in settlement talks in other lawsuits that have been brought against it. “This may be the start of the dominoes falling for Purdue,” Lahav said.