Purdue Pharma, the drugmakers responsible for Oxycontin, pleaded guilty to criminal charges this afternoon. The charges are related to the drug, a highly addictive narcotic that has been a primary driver of the opioid epidemic.
Previous Oxycontin Lawsuits
The guilty pleas in the criminal case came after a settlement last month
In October, the Sackler Family (owners of Perdue) were handed an eight billion dollar judgment, a settlement combining thousands of lawsuits from cities, states, and counties. (Not every locality suing Perdue signed off on the settlement, and some were paid out separately, including New York, which received several billion of its own.) Purdue has filed for bankruptcy and may be restructured and overseen by the government as the Sacklers remove themselves from the business.
Perdue’s Criminal Charges
In today’s world, corporations are treated as people. It may be surprising to read that a corporation has pleaded guilty to three criminal charges; however, this is precisely what they did. The people behind the corporation avoid responsibility and jail. However, the corporation has finally acknowledged its role in an opioid epidemic with an egregious death toll that has been escalating for twenty years.
The hearing was held online with a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey. The drugmaker, through Purdue board chairperson Steve Miller, admitted impeding the DEA’s efforts to combat the addiction crisis. They prevent drug abuse, ignoring any red flags that should have signaled that the drug was sold on the black market. However, the drugmaker lied to the DEA and said they had a program that monitored prescription numbers. Instead, Purdue lied to the agency and continued to produce a large number of pills without oversight, using the excuse of “manufacturing quotas.”
Purdue also admitted that they bribed doctors through an illegitimate “speaker program” to influence the doctors to write more prescriptions. And finally, they pleaded guilty to helping steer doctors towards patients that were good candidates for strong painkillers.
Punishment for the Crime?
After Purdue board chairperson Steve Miller, the court described the agreements made by Purdue and its board members. The company is paying a total of $8.3 billion in penalties and forfeitures. This is in addition to the money previously paid out in other lawsuits. However,
the company will only pay the federal government $225 million of that amount and continue to produce revenue as it pays the money it owes in civil court.
The Sackler family, owners of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, repeatedly revealed to be calm and callous about opioid addiction, will also pay out-of-pocket. They will part ways with two hundred million dollars as well to settle their civil claims. They do not face criminal charges.