In 1996, Purdue Pharma held a launch party to introduce its new, potent opioid called OxyContin. Then-senior vice president Richard Sackler made a prediction that the party “will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”
Not only was Sackler right, OxyContin became “one of the deadliest drugs of all time,” according to Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in an amended lawsuit filed against the company.
Over the next 20 years since the drug’s launch, Richard Sackler became CEO of Purdue. With family members Beverly, David, Ilene, Lefcourt, Jonathan, Kathe, Mortimer, and Theresa sitting on the company’s board of directors, “the Sacklers made Richard’s boast come true. They created a manmade disaster. Their blizzard of dangerous prescriptions buried children and parents and grandparents across Massachusetts, and the burials continue,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit specifically blames the Sackler family for using “coffee, ice cream, catered lunches and cash” to encourage doctors to prescribe the drug, addicting and killing tens of thousands of Massachusetts residents. The company also concealed its deception by “trying to avoid witnesses or a paper trail,” the lawsuit claims.
In 2001, a federal prosecutor linked OxyContin to dozens of deaths. Then-CEO Richard Sackler, wrote to Purdue executives that the problem “could have been far worse.” Later, he would blame the deaths and the opioid epidemic as a whole on the abusers.
“Richard followed that strategy for the rest of his career: collect millions from selling addictive drugs, and blame the terrible consequences on the people who became addicted,” the amended lawsuit states. “By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible. And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse.”