Purdue Pharma — the manufacturer of OxyContin, which is often blamed for helping to spur the opioid epidemic — admitted Tuesday that it failed to curb drug abuse and aggressively marketed its prescription painkillers, the Associated Press reported, pleading guilty to federal criminal charges in an $8.3 billion settlement likely to end with the company’s reorganization.
Executives admitted that Purdue failed to prevent OxyContin from being resold and abused, sent misleading information to federal investigators, and pressured doctors into writing opioid prescriptions by setting up a paid speakers program.
The company faces about $8.3 billion in fines and penalties, but it will pay the federal government just $225 million directly because the company is also expected to settle thousands of lawsuits worth billions of dollars from state, local and tribal governments.
“Having our plea accepted in federal court, and taking responsibility for past misconduct, is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value for creditors and advance our goal of providing financial resources and lifesaving medicines to address the opioid crisis,” Purdue said in a statement.
Purdue has been accused of downplaying the addictive potential of OxyContin and aggressively pushing doctors to prescribe their drugs, fueling a deadly nationwide addiction problem. The company has faced scores of lawsuits from city and state governments, and it sought to resolve these claims by declaring bankruptcy last year.
As part of Purdue’s various legal settlements, the multibillionaire Sackler family is expected to lose its control of the company, pay $225 million to the federal government to resolve civil claims, and contribute billions of dollars to the company’s bankruptcy estate. The Sacklers are among the wealthiest families in the United States, with a net worth of about $11.2 billion as of last year according to estimates from Forbes. It’s unclear how much of that fortune will stay intact after these civil and criminal penalties are resolved.
Individual members of the Sackler family did not face any criminal charges in Tuesday’s settlement, though prosecutors still have the right to investigate and charge them. The family has maintained that it has acted legally (spokespeople for the Sackler family did not immediately respond to requests for comment).
Many advocates have criticized the bargains federal and local governments have struck with Purdue, arguing the company and its executives should pay a heftier price for its role in the opioid epidemic. Some have also suggested criminal prosecutions and heavier financial penalties for members of the Sackler family, which has helmed Purdue for decades and helped to develop the company’s aggressive approach to selling painkillers.
450,000. That’s the estimated number of Americans who died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2018, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The figure includes heroin, prescription drugs and synthetic opioids like fentanyl.
Source: Forbes – Business