- The collective complaint is directed directly against eight members of the Sackler family, owners of a pharmaceutical company
- “Eight people from a single family made the decisions that caused much of the opiate epidemic,” says the class action lawsuit
- Purdue Pharma is the manufacturer of the analgesic OxyContin, more potent than heroin and morphine.
A group comprising more than 500 cities, counties and indigenous tribes of the United States has filed a joint lawsuit against the Sackler family, owner of the opiate painkiller manufacturer OxyContin. They are accused of having contributed to creating “the worst drug crisis in the history of the United States.”
The lawsuit represents communities of 26 states and eight indigenous tribes and accuses the members of the Sackler family of deliberately violating the legislation in order to get rich with billions of dollars. Hundreds of thousands of Americans who used this drug and who have become addicted to opiates have died.
In the lawsuit, filed earlier this week before a federal court in the Southern District of New York, it is argued that “eight people from a single family made the decisions that caused much of the opiate epidemic.”
Several ongoing lawsuits against different opiate manufacturers have included the names of the same eight members of the Sackler family. They sue Purdue Pharma, a Connecticut-based pharmacy owned by the family. So far, the lawsuits were directed against the pharmaceutical company, but a claim of this magnitude had never been filed against the owners of the company individually.
“The United States faces an epidemic of unprecedented opiate addiction, initiated and exacerbated by the defendants in order to obtain an economic benefit, to the detriment of each of the plaintiffs and the inhabitants of these cities, tribes, and counties. “Says the lawsuit, which is directed against Richard Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Jonathan Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Mortimer DA Sackler, and Theresa Sackler.
They are the eight most prominent members of a family that has long been known for its charitable activity. They are patrons of well-known cultural and educational institutions, such as the Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums in New York, which have recently received criticism for having accepted the money of this family. Among the educational institutions that have received money stands out the Columbia University, Yale, MIT, Tufts and other universities in the United States.
In the United Kingdom, they have given money, among other institutions, to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Serpentine Gallery and the University of Glasgow. Earlier this week, the National Portrait Gallery of the United Kingdom decided not to accept a donation from the Sackler family of one million pounds sterling. In the United States, Columbia University and the University of Washington, which accepted donations from the family in the past, have announced that they will no longer do so.
The lawsuit accuses the eight family members of deliberately minimizing the dangerousness of the painkiller OxyContin, which is more potent than heroin or morphine. They are accused of cheating doctors and patients and of having promoted a sales and marketing strategy that caused the drug to be over-prescribed and consumed, in ever-increasing doses, by many patients who were never they should have been prescribed this medicine.
“The actions of the defendants caused and continue to cause a public health epidemic … deaths, serious injuries and a serious disturbance of peace, order and public safety, are producing permanent and lasting damage,” said the documents. judicial.
Many of these accusations were already contained in a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts in which the same eight family members are named, and also appear in the record of a trial being held in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio. In this case, the lawsuit, filed by more than 1,200 cities and counties, is directed against Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies but does not mention any member of the Sackler family on an individual basis.
Both Purdue and the Sackler family deny having engaged in malpractice or any action classified as a crime. “This lawsuit is just one more example of the continuing effort on the part of lawyers looking to make a profit and who are attacking Purdue and accusing her of having caused the entire crisis of opiate addiction in the United States and, in reality, she wants the public opinion issues a verdict before the courts do, “says Robert Josephson, a spokesman for Purdue in a statement he emailed to Bloomberg News.
For their part, the Mortimer and Sackler families have issued a statement in which they affirm that “these baseless accusations wrongly blame people who have nothing to do with this complex public health crisis” and deny all the accusations filed against them. They also point out that OxyContin’s sales “represent a small part of the opiate market.”
The lawsuit filed in New York on March 18 is an unprecedented event because it focuses almost entirely on the members of the Sackler family on an individual basis.
Richard and Jonathan Sackler are children of the late Raymond Sackler, one of the founding brothers of Purdue. Beverly is the widow of Raymond and David his grandson. Ilene, Kathe, and Mortimer David Alfons are children of the late Mortimer Sackler, another of the founding brothers of Purdue and Theresa is his widow.
The family trust linked to the descendants of Raymond Sackler and Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by the Sackler family and producing generic opiate analgesics, is also being sued.
Other cases focus on Purdue and other well-known giants in the sector that market drugs with opiates, such as Johnson & Johnson and Allergan. This demand has been filed by the city and county authorities throughout the United States. Among the plaintiffs are, for example, 42 counties and cities of Alabama, 31 counties of California, 21 cities and counties of Florida, 28 counties of Illinois, 51 cities and counties of Kentucky, more than 100 towns and cities in Massachusetts and dozens of cities and counties in other states such as Wisconsin, Virginia, Utah, Tennessee, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Indiana and Michigan.
Among the eight tribes of indigenous communities that have sued members of the Sackler family are branches of the Cherokee, the Chippewa, and the Sioux, the Oneida tribe, and the Blackfeet tribe.
More than 72,000 people die in the United States annually from overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these, 49,0000 deaths are caused by opioid overdoses.
With the drugs he markets, Purdue is generating a wave of lawsuits alleging that the pharmaceutical company concealed the risks of consuming OxyContin. In a criminal complaint filed in 2007, the company acknowledged that the advertising of the product was misleading.
Purdue does not rule out declaring bankruptcy. This measure would paralyze the civil suits filed against him but also indicates that he may not be able to assume the fines or compensation for damages. However, if the latter lawsuit prospers and the court agrees with the plaintiffs, they could have direct access to the assets of some members of the Sackler family.