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Opioid Profiteering Family Finally Gets Sued For Alleged Involvement In Epidemic

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Ethan Barton Editor in Chief
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  • A New Jersey county is suing Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family
  • The lawsuit alleges Purdue downplayed the addictivness of OxyContin
  • The Sacklers have primarily avoided legal scrutiny 

A New Jersey county is suing a family of opioid profiteers and their company, Purdue Pharma – the drug manufacturer that’s widely blamed for starting the opioid epidemic.

Camden County filed the lawsuit Wednesday, joining of hundreds of other states, counties and cities suing Purdue. The suit is unique in that it included Purdue board member and former President Richard Sackler and two of the founding family members’ estates.

The lawsuit alleges that Purdue – through the Sacklers – downplayed the addictiveness of its primary product, OxyContin, while marketing the drug to doctors, which was pivotal in causing opioid addiction in Camden.

“This meteoric rise in prescriptions (and the attendant rise in addiction to and abuse of prescription opioids and heroin) is not due to a medical breakthrough,” the lawsuit said. “Rather, it has been defendants’ quest for greater profits.”

The Sacklers are Purdue’s sole owners. Seven family members sit on the company’s board and one recently stepped down.

Camden, population of 500,000, saw 277 fatal overdoses in 2017, according to The Wall Street Journal. The county’s lawsuit seeks compensation for related costs, which include medical services and lost economic productivity.

The costs could amount to be in the tens of millions of dollars, a Camden spokesman told WSJ.

The opioid epidemic cost the U.S. economy more than $1 trillion between 2001 and 2017, according to a recent study.

Camden’s suit also alleges that more than a dozen other opioid manufacturers, distributors and retailers named as defendants minimized the painkillers’ addictiveness while marketing and selling the drugs.

“We are deeply troubled by the prescription and illicit opioid abuse crisis, and are dedicated to being part of the solution,” Purdue spokesman John Puskar told WSJ.

Purdue and three top executives pleaded guilty to downplaying opioids addictiveness in 2007 and had to pay nearly $635 million. None of the Sacklers were named or punished.

Richard Sackler was previously deposed during a 2015 lawsuit, but Purdue settled the case for $24 million to keep his testimony secret. A legal battle to release the deposition is ongoing.

Regardless, the Sacklers have primarily avoided legal scrutiny and only recently started facing public scrutiny in media reports.

In recent months, The Daily Caller News Foundation has published six articles in its American Cartel series about the Sacklers. The stories detail how the family has never publicly donated to addiction rehabilitation facilities and how museums, art foundations and other nonprofits have taken what critics called “blood money” from the Sacklers without comment.

In one instance, a DCNF reporter was evicted from the Dia Art Foundation after asking about the Sacklers’ donations, while the New York Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art and the Central Park Conservancy, among others, barred reporters from interviews. (American Cartel: Here’s What You Can Buy With A Billion-Dollar Opioid Fortune)

Esquire, The Guardian, The New York Times and The New Yorker are among the newspapers that have written about the Sacklers’ ties to the opioid epidemic since TheDCNF’s first American Cartel story.

Purdue did not immediately respond to a DCNF request for comment regarding Camden’s decision to include the Sacklers in its lawsuit.

Follow Ethan on Twitter. Send tips to ethan@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.

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