If you’ve never heard of the Sackler family or their business, Purdue Pharmaceuticals, you should. The company that created and sold millions of OxyContin pills over the last two decades is now facing thousands of lawsuits in the wake of the opioid epidemic. It’s accusers claim that the company contributed to the widespread devastation of the epidemic through its vast marketing of the pain killer OxyContin. Now, the Sackler family is considering filing for bankruptcy in order to protect their assets from the lawsuits. Yes, that’s right, the family that pushed one of the most addictive drugs of all time onto millions of Americans wants to protect their wealth now that they’re in trouble.
The lawsuits against Purdue Pharma began rolling in recently. The aim was to finally hold the company accountable for its role in the nationwide opioid epidemic. Purdue first began marketing and selling OxyContin back in the mid 1990’s. At the time, the goal was to sell as much of the drug as possible. Harsh opioid pain killers such as OxyContin were previously very hard to get, and doctors would only prescribe them to patients that were in dire need of pain relief. The company was allegedly well-aware of the drugs high risk of abuse and addiction and wanted to cash in on that, so they began marketing Oxycontin heavily in the United States. Fast forward less than 20 years, and the drug is one of the most widely used and abused in the country, contributing to a devastating opioid epidemic that kills nearly 50 people every single day.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reports that there were 53 million prescriptions for Oxycodone filled in 2013. The Sackler family started selling OxyContin under Purdue Pharma in 1996. At the time, the goal was to sell as many prescriptions as possible. At the drug’s launch party (is that what you would call it?), Richard Sackler boasted that the drug would “bury the competition” at the time. It’s always been a numbers game for the pharmaceutical industry. However, widespread addiction and devastation didn’t stop Sackler from wanting to milk the American people of their every dollar.
An email from February 2001 that was recently found documents Sackler’s role in the crisis once it was already destroying lives. The email discusses what to do about the people addicted to the drug, stating that they should be treated like ‘reckless criminals.’ The information comes from a lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts. The lawsuit claims that the company misled doctors and medical companies. All of this was done on purpose in an effort to sell as much of the drug as possible.
Americans are finally holding the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma accountable for their actions. However, they’re working overtime to protect their assets. The company requested a delay of the trial for a lawsuit filed by the state of Oklahoma. This was a way for Purdue to try and prolong the trial in an effort to downplay it. But the request to change the date was denied. This was the first of about 2,000 lawsuits against the company to go to trial. In an effort to protect their assets, the Sackler family is reportedly considering filing bankruptcy on behalf of Purdue Pharma.
Unsurprisingly, the Sackler family is exceedingly rich. A threat to their income could mean the tragic loss of their name plates plastered across museums like the Metropolotan Museum of Art in New York. Americans know that the Sacklers and Purdue are to blame for the Opioid epidemic, but is it too late?
Julia Sachs is a staff writer at Grit Daily. She covers tech, entrepreneurship and entertainment news and is based in Park City, Utah.