Reviews | Opioid crisis: Purdue Pharma / Sackler family fails in race for justice


In a seismic victory for justice and accountability that reopens the deeply flawed September 2020 settlement of the Purdue pharma bankruptcy case, the Sackler family will be forced to face the pain and devastation they are believed to have caused . Judge Colleen McMahon of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on December 16, 2021 ruled that the settlement, part of a Purdue restructuring plan approved in September by a bankruptcy judge, Robert Drain, US Bankruptcy Court, White Plains, NY, should not go ahead as it relieves the owners of the company, members of the billionaire Sackler family, of any liability in opioid-related civil matters.


Flying under the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the richest families in America, the billionaire Sackler family who own 100% of Purdue Pharma and present themselves as the epitome of good works funded by the fruits of the system capitalist, is held to account for allegedly earning their fortunes at the expense of millions of dependent people. While it is shocking how long they get away with, the legal proceedings against them, if pursued in their entirety, may unfortunately not avoid the conundrum “justice delayed, justice denied”. By requesting a ‘discharge of liability’ from the federal court handling the Purdue bankruptcy case, the court could help them conserve their wealth by freeing them from liability for the ravages of the opioid epidemic caused by OxyContin , and allow them to continue to benefit at the expense of the victims.

In a bankruptcy filing, a New York Times article, “The Sacklers Could Get Away With It,” reported that “debts are written off – ‘discharged’, in legal terms – after debtors have incurred full value. of all their assets (with the exception of certain types of property, such as a principal residence) to pay their creditors. This is not what the Sacklers want, however, and the family members have not themselves filed for bankruptcy. What they offered instead was to be safe from all OxyContin lawsuits, protecting their enormous personal wealth from victims’ claims against them. Additionally, a liability waiver would provide the Sacklers with more immunity than they could ever get in a personal bankruptcy filing, which would not protect them from legal action for fraud, willful bodily harm. and malicious or punitive damages ”.


Famous singer Tom Petty’s untimely overdose death can be traced to the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma according to many addiction experts. Tom Petty’s family have said the singer’s death was caused by an accidental overdose with a cocktail of prescription drugs and pain relievers. , including oxycodone and fentanyl. Although opioid prescriptions have dropped in response to the crisis, Americans have not broken the habit and have not sought rehab; instead, they turned to heroin. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four in five people in the United States who try heroin today have started with prescription pain relievers. Alarmingly, the street heroin began to be secretly cut with the dangerous synthetic opioid fentanyl.

By fooling doctors about the safety of OxyContin in order to earn $ 35 billion in sales from the toxic pain drug between 1995 and 2015, many addiction experts claim that the owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, bear the lion’s share of the blame for many of the deaths. and the current opioid crisis.


With charitable foundations on both sides of the Atlantic, the Sacklers, who are based in New York City, have donated millions to the arts and sponsored professors at Yale and many other universities. In each case, the name of the family is prominently displayed as the benefactor. Forbes put the estimated collective worth of the 20 main family members at $ 14 billion in 2015, in part derived from $ 35 billion in OxyContin revenue between 1995 and 2015. The Sackler name is displayed on the forecourt of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and was noticed in the Sackler Gallery of the Serpentine in 2013. The ancient Egyptian temple of Dendur has a Sackler wing at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The Sackler Center for Arts Education at the Guggenheim and many other arts institutions around the world have galleries or wings named after the Sackler family.

But few know that Sackler’s wealth comes from Purdue Pharma, a privately held Connecticut company that the family developed and wholly owned. In 1995, the company revolutionized the prescription pain reliever market with the invention of OxyContin, a drug that is a chemical, concentrated, and legal version of morphine or heroin. It was designed to be safe; when it first hit the market, its slow release formula was unique. After gaining government approval, it was hailed as a medical breakthrough, an illusion that many now call “magical thinking”.

It was marketed to doctors, many of whom were taken on lavish trips, given misleading information, and paid to lecture on the drug. Patients were mistakenly told that the pills were a reliable long-term solution to chronic pain and in some cases were offered coupons for a month’s free sample. DEA data indicates that the United States has been inundated with about 10 billion pain pills per year. Most pain relievers were sold through a small number of pharmacies, with prescriptions for these drugs written by a small number of doctors at pill-making clinics who billed the prescriptions in cash. The data showed that these clinics were good clients of OxyContin for Sacklers / Purdue Pharma. Launched in 1996, the Purdues OxyContin sales strategy enjoyed great success for twenty years, as it allegedly focused OxyContin’s aggressive marketing programs on what Purdue called “cutting edge clinics”. say pill mills.

In a New Yorker Magazine article, Allen Frances, MD, former president of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, said, “Their name (Sackler / Purdue Pharma) has been touted as the epitome of good works and fruits of system capitalism. But in the end, they earned this fortune at the expense of millions of addicts. Shocking how they fared. “Long overdue, the Sacklers and Big Pharma are finally starting to pay for the opioid crisis.

Sadly, “the bankruptcy court has granted injunctions terminating proceedings in several hundred lawsuits accusing members of the Sackler family of leading the aggressive marketing campaign for OxyContin; he and other opioids have been implicated in the addiction of millions of patients and the deaths of several hundred thousand.

The Sacklers would walk away with roughly billions in OxyContin profits while leaving unresolved a crucial question posed by victims and their families: Did the Sacklers create and coordinate fraudulent marketing that helped make their best-selling drug? a deadly national scourge? With this question left unanswered, many people injured by OxyContin would feel victimized again.

Legal experts, writes the NYT, conclude that “allowing bankruptcy court to impose a comprehensive OxyContin settlement may at first glance appear to be an effective way to resolve a dispute that could last for years, the Sacklers will benefit from this opportunity at the expense of of victims. At stake is whether there will ever be a fair assessment of responsibility for the deadly epidemic of prescription drugs in the United States. The protection of all liability of OxyContin for the Sackler family would be an end to the calculation that justice requires ”.

Like all Big Pharm companies, Sackler / Purdue pharma is dedicated to maximizing profit; everything else has insignificant value compared to that. Their large and aggressive marketing campaign to sell the supposedly “safe” pain medication OxyContin seems to have ignored all limits and turned this dangerous drug into immense profit for themselves. There are always among us selfish and toxic individuals and corporate predators who view democracy / government regulation / community as an obstacle to their greed and greed. The opioid epidemic is now in full swing in the United States with millions of lives, individuals and families ruined. The Sacklers want to fall back on their money and vast profits, and let other people clean up and pay for the global and inevitable long-term suffering, death, and destruction they would have created.


Justice McMahon agreed with lawyers for the US trustee who argued that removing the plaintiffs’ ability to sue the Sacklers violated plaintiffs due process rights. The Sacklers, they argued, should not be rewarded for their contribution because they “created the need for this money” by taking it out of the business in the first place, thus creating a situation where they would be protected from lawsuits “in relying on the bankruptcy of their company. United States Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a statement: “The bankruptcy court did not have the power to deprive victims of the opioid crisis of their right to sue the Sackler family Bravo and thank you to Judge Colleen McMahon.

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