Enlarge /. PURDUE PHARMA, STAMFORD, Conn. – 12.09.2019: Members of P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and Truth Pharm protested their recently controversial opioid regulation outside Purdue Pharma's headquarters in Stamford on September 12, 2019.
The notorious Megarich Sackler family will pay civil fines of $ 235 million as part of a controversial settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
Members of the Sackler family previously own and run Purdue Pharma, which introduced the powerful opioid pain reliever OxyContin in 1996. Over the years, Purdue and members of the Sackler family have been accused of using aggressive, misleading marketing tactics to promote the highly addictive opioid pain reliever over doctors and patients, resulting in a massive nationwide epidemic of opioid abuse and overdose. To date, nearly 450,000 people have died of opioid overdoses in the US in the past two decades, and the epidemic is still ongoing.
As part of the deal with the federal government, Purdue will plead guilty to defrauding the United States and violating anti-kickback law twice. According to the Justice Department, Purdue paid two doctors through the company's doctor-spokesperson program between 2009 and 2017 to increase opioid prescriptions for patients. In 2016, the company also paid an electronic health record company to install prompts and alerts in its software that distribute, recommend, and order Purdue's opioid drugs for patients.
"The setback effectively brought Purdue's marketing department into the exam room, thumbs on the scales, just as doctors were making critical decisions about patients' health," said Christina Nolan, US attorney for Vermont District. Briefing in a Justice Department. She found that the software alerts were "triggered more than 230 million times" between 2016 and 2019 before her office began investigating.
With the criminal admissions of guilt, Purdue agreed to a fine of $ 3.544 billion and an additional forfeiture of $ 2 billion. Purdue also agreed to a $ 2.8 billion civil settlement to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act. This brings the total settlement to $ 8.344 billion.
Separately, the Sackler family agreed to pay $ 225 million in damages for civil liability under the False Claims Act. The family will also be relinquishing control of Purdue, which aims to become a nonprofit selling drug addiction and overdose rescue drugs. The agreement covers the roles of Richard Sackler, David Sackler and Mortimer D.A. Sackler, Kathe Sackler and Jonathan Sackler, who previously ran the company and were involved in the alleged illegal and fatal push to overprescribe opioids.
The Justice Department hailed the deal as a victory over “greed and violations of the law that prioritized money over patient health and well-being” and led to a “national tragedy of addiction and death”.
However, epidemic victims and attorneys general in some states see it as a failure that does not hold the Purdue executive and members of the Sackler family fully responsible for their role in the public health crisis.
"DOJ failed," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a tweet. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable without reaching an agreement in order to beat an election. I'm not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell the families who have been calling for justice for so long. "
The payouts, including a fine of just $ 225 million for the Sacklers, were particular sticking points for critics. Although Purdue made an estimated more than $ 35 billion from OxyContin sales, the company is currently bankrupt and is unlikely to pay the penalties. The settlement with the Ministry of Justice also has to be approved by the bankruptcy judge.