The devastation of the opioid crises continues, and so do Sackler family efforts to shield themselves from liability for a maelstrom of their own making.
These days there are fewer shocking videos of people passed out on grocery store floors or behind the wheel of their car. The disruption and death of the pandemic supplanted the drumbeat of stories of broken families and lives snatched from death’s door by Narcan.
Yet the crisis continues. The first year of the pandemic, 2020, posted a record number of overdose deaths—92,000. Data suggests deaths spiked again during the first half of 2021. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 1999 and 2021, approximately 841,000 people have died from a drug overdose. Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company controlled by the Sackler family, had a significant role in the opioid epidemic. Despite that role, the Sackler family continues to eschew responsibility through legal maneuvering aimed at settling lawsuits without the family being burdened with blame.
As we discussed earlier, Purdue Pharma put big money into the research and development of addictive painkillers. The company devised marketing materials and incentives to encourage physicians to prescribe their wares to unsuspecting patients. Evidence indicates the Sackler family, whose members maintained positions on the Board of Purdue Pharma, were aware of the addictive qualities of drugs like OxyContin. Rather than raise an alarm, the company is reported to have looked at developing addiction treatments as a natural extension of services following drug addiction with OxyContin.
Not surprisingly, Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are being sued for their part in the opioid tragedy. The Sackler family has bargained with plaintiffs in multiple lawsuits. The family offered $4.5 billion to stakeholders as they try to reorganize Purdue Pharma and take it out of bankruptcy. As part of that deal, the Sackler family would take no personal responsibility for the damage wrought by the company they controlled.
In December 2021, a US District judge threw out the settlement saying the bankruptcy court does not have the authority to authorize legal protection for the Sacklers. While the family threatened to withdraw its offer and appeal the decision, in mid-February 2022, the Sacklers increased their offer to $6 billion, still contingent upon an end to all civil claims against them personally. That settlement proposal has received court approval.
Money talks. But money cannot restore the lives of loved ones lost forever. Time will tell whether the plaintiffs in these matters are required to accept funds to address the crises at present and let the Sackler family off the hook for their culpability.
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