Purdue Pharma’s Sackler Family Being Torn Apart by Opioid Crisis Backlash

Opioid

It’s no secret that the Sacklers, the first family of Purdue Pharma, has earned billions of dollars off the sale of the opioid pain reliever OxyContin. It’s also no secret that the Sacklers and Purdue have been the subject of multiple lawsuits and complaints regarding the marketing of the opioid.

For many, the Sacklers appear to be ruthless people who only cared about generating revenue at the expense of the harm the “blizzard of prescriptions” sought by company executives when OxyContin was first approved. An ongoing court case in Boston highlighted some of the Sackler executives’ desire to profit from the sale of the opioid. Court documents released earlier this year revealed that Richard Sackler, a former Purdue president, called for a “blizzard of prescriptions” during a launch party for OxyContin shortly after the drug had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Sackler, according to reports, predicted that the number of paper prescriptions for OxyContin would be “deep, dense and white.”

Purdue, and the Sacklers by default have become the face of the pharma industry’s role in the opioid crisis. And while the general public has by and large condemned the family, a recent Wall Street Journal report highlighted some of the backlashes that face the Sacklers as a result of their connection to OxyContin.

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As the Journal reports, for years the Sacklers were not publicly linked to the sale of OxyContin. It was not something publicly touted as the family that took home more than $4 billion from sales of OxyContin, cultivated an image of philanthropy through donations to various institutions, including Columbia University and New York area museums. But now that their role in the sale of OxyContin has become public knowledge, the Journal reported that museums and universities are now rejecting donations from the family and some family members have been urged to leave the boards of various non-profit organizations.

The public backlash has only intensified long-time interfamily rivalries, the Journal noted. Family members, according to the report, have long disagreed on minutiae in how the company was being run. More recently, they have disagreed on the $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma, as well as the thousands of other lawsuits against the company. The family told the Journal they remained united in resolving the opioid crisis and changing the research focus of Purdue Pharma, however, spokespeople for the Sacklers told the noted paper that the story published “paints a very misleading and inaccurate picture of our families, our views and approach to this litigation.” In court, the family has denied that the company played the largest role in creating the opioid crisis. The Journal noted that Sackler family members who have been singled out in court documents have gone on the record that “OxyContin was approved by regulators and said its prescriptions have made up a small percentage of all opioids and the company’s marketing was appropriate.”

Purdue is the subject of some 1,600+ lawsuits. The one playing out in Massachusetts has become something of a headache for Purdue as the state has attempted to place blame on the company for 670 opioid-related deaths in the state since 2009. The lawsuit against Purdue has also made sure to emphasize how critical the success of OxyContin sales was to the company’s bottom line.

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