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Pharmaceutical family members sued for role in opioid crisis


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John Burger - published on 11/21/18 - updated on 11/21/18

Lawyers are targeting individuals of the Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharma.

A Long Island, New York, county has sued drug-maker Purdue Pharma for its alleged role in the opioid addiction epidemic, which has claimed about thousands of lives through overdose.

Suffolk County has sued several members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the maker of prescription painkiller OxyContin. The Associated Press reported that the lawsuit says the family learned in 1999 that OxyContin was being abused but that a Purdue company official later told a congressional investigation that they were unaware of abuses until 2000.

MarketWatch further detailed the claims:

The lawsuit in Suffolk County Supreme Court alleges a company secretary started visiting drug user chat rooms and news groups, and forwarded screen shots to the company’s top lawyer. The secretary’s fall 1999 memo on internet chats about crushed, snorted and cooked OxyContin pills was sent to high-level company officials, including Richard Sackler, who became the company president that year.

Prosecutors in Connecticut and New York also may be considering criminal fraud and racketeering charges against leading members of the Sackler family over the way OxyContin has allegedly been overprescribed and deceptively marketed to doctors and the public, legal sources told the Guardian.

“This is essentially a crime family … drug dealers in nice suits and dresses,” said Paul Hanly, a New York lawyer who represents Suffolk County and is also a lead attorney in a huge civil action playing out in federal court in Cleveland, Ohio, involving opioid manufacturers and distributors, the newspaper said.

The Guardian said that lawsuits have been filed in federal courts by more than 1,200 cities, counties and municipalities across the US against Purdue and other corporate defendants. Trials are due to begin next year in Ohio.

OxyContin originally was touted for its slow release of active ingredient oxycodone and therefore not addictive.

Suffolk County has sued Purdue Pharma already, but this time it is believed it will be going after individual family members.

“What Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have done to society through their aggressive peddling of opioids is unconscionable,” Hanly said.

Brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, both now deceased, developed Purdue Pharma and launched OxyContin in the mid-1990s. The Suffolk County lawsuit names their widows and several of their children as defendants.

Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family declined to comment in the media sources hear cited. MarketWatch noted that Purdue has said in the past that its sales representatives have stopped promoting opioid medications to prescribers. “The company said it supports efforts to curb initial opioid prescriptions to seven days, and also backs the use of electronic prescriptions to stop pill diversion to the black market,” the media outlet said.

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