Twenty-four American states are raising objections to a bankruptcy proposal for Sacklers to settle lawsuits by paying $4.3bn but family would keep about $7bn.
The Sacklers, owners of Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, seek to surrender part of their immense fortune in return for immunity from further litigation over their part in a drug epidemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives. The unusual proposition shields the wealth of individual Sacklers family members, seeking bankruptcy only for their company and not for themselves.
Under the proposals, the Sackler family that own Purdue Pharma would settle more than 3,000 lawsuits against the company by paying $4.3bn. But the Sacklers would keep about $7bn which would be personally protected from legal action over the part played by some family members in the illegal drive to mass market OxyContin for which Purdue has been twice convicted of criminal charges, in 2007 and last year.
Critics have accused the family of seeking to buy its way out of accountability while failing to admit the part played by Purdue Pharma in creating the opioid epidemic with an unprecedented marketing drive to sell OxyContin built on manipulated data and false claims that the drug federal agents called “heroin in a pill” had a low risk of causing addiction. Purdue used its wealth to influence politicians and regulators to keep trading even as the evidence grew of an epidemic in the making.
Critics say that the billions of dollars retained by the Sacklers under the plan would go a long way to provide social services for children left orphaned or forced into foster homes by their parents opioid addiction, and to offset the financial burden caused by the epidemic on health care and policing.
Documents show that the family is worth about $11bn. The Sacklers assets include nearly $1bn in cash with billions more held in trusts. Their vast holdings also include art and property.
The family’s lawyers say the $4.3bn payment is fair because it is less than the Sacklers made from OxyContin after tax.
Regret but no remorse. Kathe Sackler, a former member of Purdue’s board, she said that while “my “heart breaks for the parents who have lost their children”, the company was not at fault.
“There’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently,” she said.