Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the ill-famed OxyContin (oxycodone) synthetic opioid responsible for sparking the addiction crisis America and Staten Island now faces, has filed for bankruptcy in New York State. OxyContin is more addictive than heroin, according to some, however Purdue Pharma allegedly deceptively marketed the drug to doctors as a non-addictive, benign substance, though it’s claimed that evidence suggested otherwise. According to reports, aggressive sales reps, peddling lies and half-truths, cared only about Purdue’s bottom line.
OxyContin, a time-release opioid, was a valuable FDA-approved pharmaceutical drug, a much-appreciated means of easing the suffering of those experiencing intractable pain. When used as directed, OxyContin did not have quite the same potential for addiction, or potential for its users to get high, as when the drug was misused by crushing and snorting, as was commonly practiced by those buying the drug “in the streets.”
The pills were reformulated in 2010 to prevent illicit users from crushing and subsequently snorting or injecting. That does not mean that the ingestion route was not without its risks; back in 2007, Purdue Pharma’s marketing strategy was called into question, leading executives to plead guilty to felony charges. The accusations were that Purdue “misbranded” the drug, downplaying its abuse potential and addiction hazard.
Almost a half million acknowledged deaths can be attributed to the opioid epidemic; it’s likely the death toll is far higher. And, once states began limiting “doctor shopping” and cracking down on “pill mill” doctors and pain clinics, those already addicted turned to heroin, and later fentanyl, to satisfy their cravings for opioids.
While the Chapter 11 filing may provide some measure of shielding to the Sackler family, Purdue’s owners, from the thousands of opioid lawsuits filed across the country, the Sacklers will likely face lawsuits that target the family, directly. Purdue Pahrma’s bankruptcy is not surprising; their $10 billion dollar settlement to 24 states, along with many more cities, counties, and tribes, precipitated the filing. Additionally, the family, itself, will have to pay a further sum of 3 billion in damages.
The Sacklers have been caught using Swiss bank accounts to transfer funds from Purdue Pharma to their own coffers, according to the New York Attorney General. Mortimer D.A. Sackler also transferred unknown sums from Purdue to shell companies and family trusts. Apparently, these efforts were undertaken to mitigate damage from the exploding OxyContin controversy and ensuing lawsuits being filed.
Supposedly, the Sacklers have diverted more than $5 billion in funds to offshore tax havens, using every trick in the book to keep their ill-gotten fortune. Forbes placed the Sacklers as the 19th most wealthy family in America, with a net worth of over $13 billion.
New York Attorney General Letitia James was not pleased with any of this: “While the Sacklers continue to low-ball victims and skirt a responsible settlement, we refuse to allow the family to misuse the courts in an effort to shield their financial misconduct. The limited number of documents provided to us so far underscore the necessity for compliance with every subpoena.” And so, the NY Attorney General is going ahead with scores of subpoenas to banks and other financial institutions, in order to get to the bottom of this grand deception.
The Sackler Family had been prolific donors; the now-disgraced, tremendously wealthy and (formerly) well-respected clan known for its generous donations to cultural institutions and initiatives, both in the US, and in the UK, France, and Germany, contributed generously over the years. Will their family name be stripped from these world-renowned and respected sites? Will their family name ever return to its previous high stature of glory and awe? It’s quite unlikely.
The Sacklers have donated extensively to libraries, museums, hospitals, and universities. An incomplete list of their philanthropic efforts include the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Educational Laboratory, Dia Art Foundation’s Sackler Institute, Guggenheim Museum’s Sackler Center for Arts Education, Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing, all located in New York City.
Additionally, the Sacklers have helped fund a great deal of British initiatives, including the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology’s Sackler Keeper of Antiquities at University of Oxford, the British Museum’s Raymond and Beverly Sackler Rooms in London, City & Guilds of London Art School’s Sackler Library, Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Sackler Director and Sackler Centre for Arts Education also in London, the National Gallery‘s Sackler Room, Natural History Museum’s Sackler Biodiversity Imaging Laboratory, and the Royal Ballet School in London (funded by the Sackler Trust).
And that’s not all. The Sacklers also helped to fund other UK projects, including the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew’s Sackler Crossing in Richmond, Royal College of Art‘s Sackler Building, the Royal Opera, London (Dame Theresa Sackler is an honorary director), Serpentine Sackler Gallery, Shakespeare’s Globe’s Sackler Studios, Tate Modern‘s Sackler Escalator, University of Cambridge’s Raymond and Beverley Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology, University of Oxford’s Sackler Library, Victoria and Albert Museum‘s Sackler Courtyard, Westminster Abbey’s stained glass window for Dr. Mortimer Sackler, and more.
That’s quite a list, and it’s not even a complete accounting of all that the family has done toward fostering good in our world. However, even such an extensive list of donation recipients cannot offset the damage and pain caused by what some might consider unbridled greed. The United States has many metropoles that have city-within-city tent enclaves. According to social service experts and law enforcement leadership familiar with this latest homelessness crisis, many of these individuals are, in fact, addicted to drugs.
In many cases, their drug of choice, or rather drug of compulsion, is heroin. Did every one of them begin with snorting OxyContin? We could never know. However, OxyContin, first introduced to markets in 1996, surely helped set the stage for a social climate more receptive to opioid consumption, both in the minds of physicians and other health care professionals, as well as an unsuspecting public. Is the settlement is fair and just? Is it just time the perpetrators of the scandalous opioid epidemic pay the price, or are the Sacklers, and Purdue Pharma, being unfairly pinned as scapegoats?