According to a recent report by the New York Times, two members of the billionaire Sackler family that previously owned the now-defunct Purdue Pharma, maker of the infamous narcotic drug, OxyContin, made a rare public appearance in front of members of Congress.
Seemingly, the House Oversight Committee, sought to exploit the virtual meeting by getting Dr. Kathe Sackler and her cousin, David Sackler, to admit wrongdoing and culpability for the nation’s opioid crisis. Moreover, the Committee sought details about $10 billion that the family withdrew from the company, according to records.
Purdue Pharma is named as a defendant in thousands of federal and state OxyContontin lawsuits. In October of last year, Purdue Pharma was hit with $8 billion in penalties. Lacking the $8 billion to pay the penalties (in part because the $10 billion was withdrawn), Purdue Pharma has been essentially dissolved.
OxyContin, however, is still available as an FDA-approved drug even as it is blamed for fueling the opioid crisis, which has caused the deaths of nearly half a million Americans. Eight members of the Sackler family have been individually named in several state lawsuits. Lawsuits accuse the family for misleading marketing practices of the drug.
Despite the lawsuits and the court of public opinion weighing heavily against them, the Sackler family may never have to appear in court. That’s because of the ongoing bankruptcy negotiations and the fact that the lawsuits may reach a settlement rather than going to trial.
Meanwhile, members of the Sackler family currently refuse to admit personal or criminal responsibility for fueling the opioid crisis; they also refuse to forfeit any of their fortune accumulated by OxyContin.
During the tense, nearly four-hour hearing, the two Sacklers who appeared virtually before the Committee, and who both were on the board of Purdue Pharma, blamed “management” and nonfamily board members for OxyContin’s deceptive marketing practices.
According to the New York Times, repeatedly, the committee members pitted hard statistics about the destruction from the epidemic against images of the family’s concurrent gains, including a $22.5 million mansion in the Bel Air neighborhood of Los Angeles, paid for in cash in 2018 — which David Sackler characterized as a trust investment in which he had not spent a single night.
The following is a brief excerpt of the testimony that appears on the New York Times website:
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY): You apologized for the pain people have suffered but you’ve never apologized for the role you played in the opioid crisis. So I’ll ask you again will you apologize for the role you played in the opioid crisis play.
Dr. Kathe Sackler, co-owner of Purdue Pharma: I have struggled with that question I have asked myself over many years I have tried to figure out is there anything that I could have done differently knowing what I knew then not what I know now and I have to say it is that I can’t there’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then and what I learned from Management in the reports to the board and what I learned from my colleagues on the board and it is extremely distressing.
David Sackler, co-owner of Purdue Pharma: Far too many lives have been destroyed by addiction and abuse of opioids, including OxyContin. There are many lawsuits that have blamed Purdue and my family for the opioid crisis. While we deny liability and are vigorously contesting these claims we want to respond to the opioid crisis because a prescription medicine that our company manufactured and sold, which was never intended to harm anyone, ended up being part of a crisis that has harmed too many people.