US

Sackler family behind OxyContin make rare appearance at congressional hearing

Sackler family member who owns Purdue says there’s nothing she would’ve done differently as she faces congressional hearing over role OxyContin has played in opioid crisis

One of the owners of the company that makes OxyContin says she wouldn’t have done anything different after acknowledging during congressional hearing that the powerful prescription painkiller has played a role in the national opioid crisis.

Kathe Sackler and David Sackler, who are members of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, made a rare public appearance on Thursday during a congressional hearing before the House Oversight Committee.

While the two acknowledged that the powerful prescription painkiller has played a role in the national opioid crisis, they stopped short of apologizing or admitting wrongdoing.

When asked if she would apologize for any role Purdue has played in the crisis, Kathe said she had struggled with the question of whether she could have done anything differently. 

‘I have to say that there’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently,’ she said. 

David Sackler

Kathe Sackler and David Sackler, who are members of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, made a rare appearance in a public forum on Thursday during a congressional hearing before the House Oversight Committee

‘I know the loss of any family member or loved one is terribly painful and nothing is more tragic than the loss of a child,’ Kathe said. ‘As a mother, my heart breaks for the parents who have lost their children. I am so terribly sorry for your pain.’ 

David noted that OxyContin had helped ‘millions of Americans’. 

‘I want to express my family’s deep sadness about the opioid crisis,’ he told the hearing. ‘OxyContin is a medicine that Purdue intended to help people, and it has helped, and continues to help, millions of Americans.’ 

Kethe and David, who are descendants of two of the three brothers who bought Purdue nearly 70 years ago, appeared before the committee in a video hearing held amid COVID-19 restrictions. 

The congressional committee is investigating the Sackler family and the company’s role in the national opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.

It is the first time in years that any member of the wealthy family have taken questions in public from an official body. 

They appeared before the hearing after the committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, threatened to issue subpoenas. 

The hearing came three weeks after Purdue pleaded guilty to three criminal charges as part of a sweeping settlement with the Department of Justice.

The company agreed to pay more than $8 billion in forfeitures and penalties, while members of the Sackler family would have to pay $225 million to the government. No family member would be criminally prosecuted under the Justice Department settlement, although the deal leaves open that possibility.  

The settlement requires the company to hand over just $225 million of the $8 billion total to the government as long as Purdue makes good on plans to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments, a matter that is now in bankruptcy court. 

State and local governments blame the company’s marketing efforts for contributing to an opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has been linked to 470,000 deaths in the US over the past two decades.

The Stamford, Connecticut-based company and the Sacklers have proposed resolving the lawsuits by transforming Purdue into a public benefit corporation, with its profits used to combat the opioid epidemic.

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