Judge approves Purdue Pharma opioid settlement

By Grady Boris, Guest Writer

Pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma was dissolved by a bankruptcy judge last week. The settlement requires the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, to pay $4.5 billion and relinquish ownership of the company. Consequently, they would be freed from future opioid lawsuits.

Purdue will be restructured into a new company, led by board members who are appointed by public officials.

Judge Robert Drain, who approved the settlement, expressed his dissatisfaction with the settlement’s results.

“I believe that at least some of the Sackler parties have liability for those (opioid OxyContin) claims. I would have expected a higher settlement,” Drain said.

Purdue is largely known for their highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. According to previous lawsuits filed by 15 states, Purdue’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin caused overprescription of the painkiller throughout America. This worsened the opioid crisis throughout the U.S.

The opioid crisis has killed almost 500,000 Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2019, opioids made up 70% of the overdose deaths in the U.S. 

Critics of the Sacklers argue that the family refuses to hold themselves accountable. 

Photo courtesy of pixnio.com
Critics blame Purdue Pharma, owned by the Sackler family, for the opioid crisis. Last week’s settlement gives them immunity from future lawsuits.

“I don’t think anybody would say that justice has been done because there’s just so much harm that was caused and so much money that has been retained by the company and by the family,”  professor at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Dr. Joshua Farfstein said. 

David Sackler, a former board member of Purdue Pharma, defended himself against critics arguing that OxyContin was developed with positive intent and has reaped positive results.

“OxyContin is a medicine that Purdue intended to help people, and it has helped and continues to help millions of Americans,” Sackler said.

“(Purdue is) prepared to dedicate billions of dollars and relinquish (their) interest in Purdue to fund a settlement that will bring help to those who need it,” he said. 

David Sackler and Purdue Pharma continue to deny liability for the alleged dishonesty of the marketing scheme of OxyContin. 

“While we dispute the allegations that have been made about our family, we have embraced this path in order to help combat a serious and complex public health crisis,” representatives of the Sackler family said.

The lawsuit, which took two years to decide, shields any Sackler family member involved with the Purdue Pharma company from liability in lawsuits involving their painkillers and the overprescription of the company’s drugs.

Since the lawsuits targeting Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family emerged, several larger universities and brands have pulled away from the Sacklers and the Purdue Pharma company. 

McKinsey, a worldwide consulting company, and JPMorgan Chase, America’s largest bank, have distanced themselves from the brand by dropping Purdue Pharma as their client. 

“We are no longer advising clients on any opioid-specific business and are continuing to support key stakeholders working to combat the crisis,” McKinsey said. 

However, various organizations, including universities and museums, continue to either accept money or donations from the Sacklers. 

Some of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. and around the world have buildings dedicated to the Sacklers. Notably, Harvard University has an academic building named after Arthur M. Sackler, and Oxford University continues to receive donations from the Sackler family.

Last week’s settlement precludes organizations from naming buildings after the Sacklers until the family leaves the opioid business and pays $4.5 billion to help fight the opioid crisis.