After doing their part to create and profit from an epidemic that has ravaged American communities and left hundreds of thousands of people dead in its wake, the family that is largely behind OxyContin’s rise to opioid prominence is set to keep the vast majority of their wealth and will never see the inside of a jail cell.
A recent article published by The Washington Post outlines the terms of a settlement currently being negotiated that, at best, serves as a glancing blow against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers, a company and a family that did everything possible to enhance and accelerate the rate of opioid consumption in a country already in the throes of severe opioid addiction. Under the terms of the settlement, the Sacklers would give up control of Purdue and the corporation would be re-created as a trust whose purpose was to fight the epidemic it was instrumental in creating. Having raided Purdue’s coffers to the tune of billions of dollars and converting that money to their own personal wealth, the Sacklers will fund much of Purdue’s new goals by selling off their international drug company Mundipharma. This sale would leave most of their personal wealth intact.
In what is perhaps the ultimate irony, however, the additional money needed to fund Purdue’s anti-opioid efforts will come from the continued production and sale of OxyContin.
The Sackler’s likely dodging of any personal responsibility for their role in causing and perpetuating the opioid crisis has outraged some states’ attorneys general. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said that Purdue Pharma needed to be “broken up and shut down” and that his state “demands that the Sacklers and Purdue management be forced completely out of the opioid business, domestically and internationally, and that they never be allowed to return.” To date, however, it has been difficult to find any public statements calling for Sackler family members to face criminal charges or truly crippling financial consequences.
It may very well be then that the family who bears most of the responsibility for America’s opioid epidemic will walk away with nothing more than a slap on the wrist and approximately $13 billion left in the bank.