David and Kathe Sackler agreed with the House Oversight Committee to appear at a hearing set for this Thursday. The two family members, who helped steer the direction of Purdue Pharmaceuticals, will be answering questions about their role in the opioid crisis. Both seemed hesitant to appear at the hearing and were threatened with a subpoena if they did not appear willingly.
Purdue and the Sackler family owners have been at the center of thousands of lawsuits for years over their role in the opioid epidemic. The opioid epidemic, fueled by Oxycontin prescriptions and reckless prescribing, has taken over 450,000 lives over the past ten years.
Purdue Chief Executive Craig Landau is testifying at the hearing as well. His testimony was planned in advance.
Purdue Pharma’s Guilty Plea
In November, Purdue Pharmaceuticals pleaded guilty to criminal charges concerning their marketing and illegal pressure over its handling of OxyContin. This highly addictive prescription drug is known for driving the opioid crisis and hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Purdue admitted to defrauding the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and paying illegal kickbacks to doctors. They also went further, paying special bonuses to a partnering software vendor. The software would recommend higher doses of opioid medications and push opioids on patients whose algorithm decided they were “qualified” for pain relief.
The plea deal was part of a broader settlement where they also paid monies to be distributed among many states and counties ravished by the opioid movement. While the Sackler family, too, agreed to pay civil penalties ($225 million), they disputed that their actions led to reckless or deceitful behavior.
They have not yet been criminally charged for their involvement and likely never will be.
The Congressional Hearing and the Sacklers
Congress is still exploring Purdue and the Sackler family’s involvement in the opioid crisis and working to hold parties responsible for the addiction crisis that has skyrocketed since the 1990s after Oxycontin became widely prescribed.
Paperwork, transcripts, testimony, and emails from court cases showed that while Purdue Pharmaceuticals understood Oxycontin was addictive, they continued to pressure doctors to prescribe it to patients. They also ignored the skyrocketing orders from places such as pill mills, in some cases missing pharmacies where the orders outnumbered the townspeople.
Congress will continue to hear testimony to learn more about how the pharmaceutical industry helped escalate a crisis of addiction that is still raging today.