US

Woke Yale bosses cancel Sacklers by removing donor family’s name from medical school


Yale University is finally severing ties with the disgraced Sackler family over their involvement in the opioid crisis.

The prestigious school announced today that it is in the process of removing the Sackler name – whose family donated millions – from its medical schools and professorships.

Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart admitted that the school had actually decided to distance itself from the wealthy donors last year but only publicly acknowledged the move this week.

‘In 2021, the University made a decision to pursue a separation from the Sackler name and has been actively working on specific plans consistent with that decision which we expect to announce soon,’ Peart told Yale Daily News.

The announcement comes after the university repeatedly dodged questions about its close ties with the Sacklers whose company, Purdue Pharma, are the makers of OxyContin. The family recently reached a $6billion settlement over their role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with nine state attorney generals.

The University was not clear on whether they would return donations or just remove the family’s name, Yale Daily News reported.

The billionaire Sackler family (pictured) recently reached a $6 billion settlement over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis

The university said that one of their first moves will be leaving two professorships at the Yale School of Medicine endowed by the family vacant. 

That includes the David A. Sackler Professor of Pharmacology, which was most recently occupied by Professor Mark Lemmon until he was reassigned last month and The Richard and Jonathan Sackler Professorship in Internal Medicine, which has been vacant since 2015 when it was last occupied by Dr. Thomas Lynch. 

The Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences has also been restructured under the umbrella of The Program in Physics, Engineering, and Biology, the university announced.  

‘Increasingly Universities need to vet donors not just for how much they want to give, and where they want to put their name – but also who they are and how they made their money,’  Professor of Medicine Harlan Krumholz told Yale Daily News. 

Yale said they will not be filling in the two vacant professorships at the Yale School of Medicine endowed by the family

Yale said they will not be filling in the two vacant professorships at the Yale School of Medicine endowed by the family

‘No one wants to enter the hall named for someone whose largess was generated in shameful ways. We are grateful to donors, but the association with a great University also confers many benefits,’ he added. ‘In this era, Universities need to be aware of who is being provided that halo. The key question will be where is the line.’ 

The billionaire Sacklers agreed to allow institutions bearing their name to remove it from their buildings as part of their settlement and issued an apology for their involvement in the opioid crisis. 

Previously institutions like the Smithsonian and Harvard, who feature the Sackler name on their buildings, were legally bound to keep the name.

Critics have accused the billionaire family of ‘art-washing’ their money, as their money has in some cases been given out on the condition that their name be celebrated in exhibits and buildings.

Last month, the Tate Modern museum, in London, was the latest institution to remove the Sackler name and give up donations due to the family’s tie with the opioid crisis.

Their deal follows an earlier settlement that had been appealed by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, and also allows any medical centers and art or educational institutions bearing the Sackler name to have it removed from their buildings.

The attorney generals agreed to sign on after the Sacklers kicked in more cash – including a portion that just those jurisdictions would control – and accepted other terms, including apologizing. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits.

The plan calls for members of the Sackler family to give up control of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company so it can be turned into a new entity with profits used to fight the crisis. 

Most of the the money is to flow to state and local governments, Native American tribes and some hospitals, with the requirement that it be used to battle an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.

The new plan was hammered out with attorneys general from the eight states and D.C. who had opposed the earlier one, arguing that it did not properly hold Sackler family members accountable.

The sacking of the Sacklers: How billionaire pharma dynasty behind OxyContin and Purdue raked in a FORTUNE from painkiller sales, before falling from grace amid America’s opioid crisis – as family agrees to pay $6BILLION for role in fueling drug epidemic 

On March 3, the Sackler dynasty, owners of Purdue Pharma and makers of the powerful prescription painkiller, OxyContin, reached a landmark $6 billion agreement over its role in fueling the opioid epidemic that led to the deaths of more than 500,000 people.

The deal officially dissolves the multi-billion dollar behemoth Purdue Pharma L.P., and puts an end to an American dream turned toxic.

The money, which will be used to fund victim compensation and addiction treatment, notably frees the Sackler family from all future civil lawsuits but does not preclude them from criminal prosecution. Despite the hefty $6 billion settlement , the Sackler family will be able to maintain the bulk of their personal wealth that was moved to off-shore accounts before their Chapter 11 filing.

The ruling comes after a years-long battle that began in 2014 when the pharmaceutical giant faced mounting lawsuits from individual claimants, state, local and tribal governments.

As the nation reeled from a spiraling crisis of opioid abuse and overdoses, Purdue Pharma racked up over 2,900 lawsuits. Buried in litigation, the company filed for bankruptcy in August 2019 to relieve all outstanding claims.

Almost overnight, members of the Sackler family who were once lauded in philanthropic circles became the personification of deadly corporate greed. The former fixtures of New York’s high society, were suddenly persona non grata.

The ascent of the Sackler family is a remarkable rags to riches story that starts with the unlikely rise of three brothers from Brooklyn: Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond, the sons of Jewish grocers who emigrated from Eastern Europe.

Another condition to the deal struck yesterday is that museums, universities and other institutions barring the Sackler name will be allowed to remove it from buildings and scholarships. The Sackler's will be absolved all future civil lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic, but are not immune to criminal prosecution

Another condition to the deal struck yesterday is that museums, universities and other institutions barring the Sackler name will be allowed to remove it from buildings and scholarships. The Sackler’s will be absolved all future civil lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic, but are not immune to criminal prosecution

Tufts University became the first major university to strip the Sackler name from buildings and programs

Tufts University became the first major university to strip the Sackler name from buildings and programs

The Sackler family fortune was spearheaded by three Brooklyn-born, doctors named Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler. Arthur and Mortimer Sackler each married three times, and Raymond married once. There are 14 children in the second generation and even more grandchildren. Arthur Sackler's family has never been involved in the OxyContin epidemic, as they sold their stake in Purdue Pharma to the other brothers after his death in 1987. The eight Sackler family members who were implicated by the New York attorney general in a lawsuit were the widowed matriarchs Theresa and Beverly Sackler, and their children Kathe, Mortimer Jr, Richard, Jonathan and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt; and David Sackler, a grandson

The Sackler family fortune was spearheaded by three Brooklyn-born, doctors named Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler. Arthur and Mortimer Sackler each married three times, and Raymond married once. There are 14 children in the second generation and even more grandchildren. Arthur Sackler’s family has never been involved in the OxyContin epidemic, as they sold their stake in Purdue Pharma to the other brothers after his death in 1987. The eight Sackler family members who were implicated by the New York attorney general in a lawsuit were the widowed matriarchs Theresa and Beverly Sackler, and their children Kathe, Mortimer Jr, Richard, Jonathan and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt; and David Sackler, a grandson

Jonathan Sackler (left) who died of cancer in June 2020, aged 65, was the son of Raymond Sackler and a key executive of the company as it fueled the opioid epidemic

Raymond's son, Richard Sackler, 77 was chairman and president of Purdue Pharma from 1999 to 2018. He joined the family business in 1971 and is often portrayed as a central villain to the opioid epidemic for playing a big part in the development and marketing of OxyContin

Jonathan Sackler (left) who died of cancer in June 2020, aged 65, was the son of Raymond Sackler and a key executive of the company as it fueled the opioid epidemic Jonathan Sackler (left) who died of cancer in June 2020, aged 65, was the son of Raymond Sackler and a key executive of the company as it fueled the opioid epidemic. His older brother, Richard Sackler, 77 (right) was chairman and president of Purdue Pharma from 1999 to 2018. He joined the family business in 1971 and is often portrayed as a central villain to the opioid epidemic for playing a big part in the development and marketing of OxyContin

Within their lifetimes, they amassed an enormous $13 billion fortune (more than the Rockefellers or the Mellons) and began collecting art, wives and houses around the world. Their children and grandchildren enjoyed a life of luxury, attended the finest schools, and became fixtures on the glitzy society circuit.

Using their OxyContin lucre, the Sacklers burnished their reputation through charity by donating lavishly to prestigious medical schools and world-class art galleries – this in turn drew fierce criticism from those who believed that the family was using their deep pockets to obscure the dark source of their wealth. Their loudest critic, the photographer Nan Goldin, said they ‘art-washed’ it with blood money.

There was a time when you couldn’t swing a cat without landing on a building barring the Sackler name: Harvard, Tufts, Columbia, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian, the Louvre, the Guggenheim, the Serpentine Gallery, the Tate, the American Museum of Natural History, NYU Langone Hospital, and dozens of scholarships, grants and endowments.

Their fall from grace began in 2014, when the Massachusetts and New York attorney generals implicated eight Sackler family members in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic. In a lawsuit, the Sackler matriarchs, Theresa and Beverly Sackler were listed among their children, Kathe, Mortimer Jr, Richard, Jonathan and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt; and David Sackler, a grandson.

Amid a cascade of litigation all remaining Sacklers stepped down from the board of directors in April 2019.

THE SACKLER FAMILY: A RAGS TO RICHES STORY THAT STARTED WITH THREE BROTHERS FROM BROOKLYN

Born in Brooklyn during the Great Depression, all three brothers (who are now dead) went to medical school and became psychiatrists. They were especially fascinated by psychopharmacology as an alternative to other treatments like electroshock therapy for psychiatric disorders.

According to the New York Times, Raymond and Mortimer studied skin burns for the Atomic Energy Commission before they were fired for refusing to sign an oath promising to report colleagues having conversations that were considered ‘subversive.’

Arthur, the eldest, had a knack for marketing. He paid for his medical-school tuition by working at a small New York ad agency that specialized in the medical field. Possessing the unique skillset of a salesman, adman, and doctor made him a virtuoso in the business. Within a few years, Arthur bought the fledging agency and turned it into a powerhouse for pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Roche.

He revolutionized the industry by pioneering a new way of selling drugs that promoted the product to patients and doctors. More than anything, Arthur understood that physicians are heavily influenced by their peers, and thus crafted campaigns that directly appealed to medical personnel.

He got rich hawking Roche’s new tranquilizer, Valium, in the 1960s. One glossy for the pill depicted a woman surrounded by concerned doctors and family members because of her ‘psychic tension’, a 20th century term for what is now just considered stress. In part because of the success of Arthur’s campaign, Valium became the first drug in US history to top $100 million in sales.

During this time, he began to come under intense scrutiny for false advertising. One 1959 investigation conducted by The Saturday Review revealed that he had fabricated the names and identities of doctors who were used as references for the efficacy of a new Pfizer antibiotic.

His ad featured an assortment of doctors’ business cards next to the phrase: ‘More and more physicians find Sigmamycin the antibiotic therapy of choice.’ The only problem is that the names of the doctors and their telephone numbers did not exist.

Mortimer Sackler and his wife Dame Theresa were known as international philanthropists, and are pictured here in 2004 at the Cartier Dinner at the Chelsea Physic Garden. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth conferred an honorary knighthood on Mortimer Sackler in recognition of his philanthropy

 Mortimer Sackler and his wife Dame Theresa were known as international philanthropists, and are pictured here in 2004 at the Cartier Dinner at the Chelsea Physic Garden. In 1999, Queen Elizabeth conferred an honorary knighthood on Mortimer Sackler in recognition of his philanthropy

Purdue Pharma came to market with their blockbuster drug, OxyContin in 1995. The pill is made from pure oxycodone, which is a synthetic cousin of heroin that is twice as powerful, and cheap to produce. The potency exceeded any prescription painkiller on the market. 'In terms of narcotic firepower, OxyContin was a nuclear weapon,' said the journalist Barry Meier

Purdue Pharma came to market with their blockbuster drug, OxyContin in 1995. The pill is made from pure oxycodone, which is a synthetic cousin of heroin that is twice as powerful, and cheap to produce. The potency exceeded any prescription painkiller on the market. ‘In terms of narcotic firepower, OxyContin was a nuclear weapon,’ said the journalist Barry Meier

After Arthur’s death, his branch of the Sackler family claim to have distanced themselves from the Purdue empire. His daughter Elizabeth Sackler has called Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid crisis, 'morally abhorrent'

After Arthur’s death, his branch of the Sackler family claim to have distanced themselves from the Purdue empire. His daughter Elizabeth Sackler has called Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid crisis, ‘morally abhorrent’

Using Arthur’s ad money in 1952, the Sackler brothers bought Purdue Frederick – a little-known medicine company that mainly produced laxative and earwax remover out of the Greenwich Village. Raymond and Mortimer were co-chairmen while Arthur played a passive role.

In his 2003 book, the journalist Barry Meier, observed that Arthur treated his brothers ‘not as siblings but more like his progeny and understudies.

Arthur showed an early interest in collecting art. He and his first wife, Else started in the 1940s with contemporary artists like Marc Chagall before he focused on Asian art. By the end of his lifetime, Arthur had amassed a colossal collection that included ‘tens of thousands of works’ of Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern artifacts. He donated 1,000 pieces worth an estimated $50 million to the Smithsonian, along with $4 million to build a new gallery to house them.

According to the New Yorker, the art scholar Thomas Lawton once likened Arthur, to ‘a modern Medici.’

The slow success of Purdue Frederick made the family wealthy enough to become active in the charity circuit. In 1974, the brothers donated $3.5 million (roughly $20 million in today’s money) to the construction of a new wing holding the Met’s crown jewel: the 2,000 year old Temple of Dendur, which was a gift from the Egyptian government.

Mortimer, who was always the flashiest of the three siblings, used the new Sackler Wing to host an extravagant birthday party that featured a cake with his face, designed after the Great Sphinx.

That same year, he renounced his American citizenship, ‘reportedly for tax reasons’ (according to the New Yorker) and jetsetted around Europe to his various homes in London, the Swiss Alps and Cap d’Antibes.

The youngest Sackler brother, Raymond, had stepped in to take care of the day to day operations at the company. He moved its headquarters to Stamford, Connecticut and changed its name to Purdue Pharma.

Dr Kathe Sackler and her wife, Susan Shack Sackler (fourth and third from left, respectively) are well-known for their philanthropic efforts; Kathe is the second daughter of founding brother Mortimer and was also listed as a Napp director as of December 2016

Dr Kathe Sackler and her wife, Susan Shack Sackler (fourth and third from left, respectively) are well-known for their philanthropic efforts; Kathe is the second daughter of founding brother Mortimer and was also listed as a Napp director as of December 2016

Mortimer D.A. Sackler and his wife Jacqueline were mainstays in New York City's high society, but were considered persona non grata after the scandal broke, they fled to Europe to escape the scrutiny. Mortimer had served as a member of the Board of Purdue Pharma and the associated international pharmaceutical companies since 1988

'They unfortunately symbolize all that is wrong with the epidemic. Their reputations are in the cesspool, said a social insider to the NY Post. 'There is a reluctance to hobnob and socialize [with] and openly stand next to the Sacklers. They aren’t being invited to small dinners on Fifth Avenue'

Mortimer D.A. Sackler and his wife Jacqueline were mainstays in New York City’s high society, but were considered persona non grata after the scandal broke. In order to escape the scrutiny of the silk stocking pals, they moved to Europe. Mortimer had served as a member of the Board of Purdue Pharma and the associated international pharmaceutical companies since 1988 

Joss Sackler is married to David, who was on the board of Purdue and manages some of the family money through a wealth fund. Critics branded her 'tone deaf' in 2019 for hosting a fashion show for her line, 'LBV' -  as her family faced mounting litigation over their involvement in the opioid crises that gripped a nation. Courtney Love (a recovering addict)  branded her 'offensive and shameful' for allegedly trying to entice her to attend with a $100,000 offer and the promise of a custom-made dress 'embroidered with 24-karat gold thread'

Joss Sackler is married to David, who was on the board of Purdue and manages some of the family money through a wealth fund. Critics branded her ‘tone deaf’ in 2019 for hosting a fashion show for her line, ‘LBV’ –  as her family faced mounting litigation over their involvement in the opioid crises that gripped a nation. Courtney Love (a recovering addict)  branded her ‘offensive and shameful’ for allegedly trying to entice her to attend with a $100,000 offer and the promise of a custom-made dress ’embroidered with 24-karat gold thread’

OxyContin profits have afforded the Sackler's a portfolio of homes all over the world. Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Mortimer Sackler’s daughter, owns a 3,100-square-foot spread in Manhattan's luxury San Remo towers on Central Park West

OxyContin profits have afforded the Sackler’s a portfolio of homes all over the world. Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Mortimer Sackler’s daughter, owns a 3,100-square-foot spread in Manhattan’s luxury San Remo towers on Central Park West

Richard Sackler's former Greenwich, Connecticut home - where he lived with his wife and children before he divorced and moved to Texas - was situated on two acres, featured seasonal water views and a community dock in the gated neighborhood and included a pool and pool house

Richard Sackler’s former Greenwich, Connecticut home – where he lived with his wife and children before he divorced and moved to Texas – was situated on two acres, featured seasonal water views and a community dock in the gated neighborhood and included a pool and pool house

When Arthur died in 1987, the brothers purchased his share in the company from his heirs for $22.4 million, while pioneering its sister company, Napp Pharmaceuticals, in the United Kingdom.

It’s important to note that by the time OxyContin came to market in 1995, Arthur had already been dead seven years. Since the opioid controversy, his descendants have actively fought to distance themselves from the other two branches of the family and claim they’ve been found ‘guilty by association.’ His grandson clarified to the New Yorker: ‘I have never owned shares in Purdue. None of the descendants of Arthur M. Sackler have ever had anything to do with, or benefited from, the sale of OxyContin.’

However, Arthur’s legacy was his brilliance in marketing and the same strategies he pioneered for other pharmaceutical companies, became a template that was expanded upon by his brother’s and their heirs.

He mastered the art of the deal, maintained contacts with physicians, treated them to expensive dinners, lucrative speaker fees, lavish trips, and wooed them into writing more prescriptions for Pfizer and Roche branded drugs.

His widow, Jillian Sackler maintains that blaming him for OxyContin’s predatory marketing campaign, ‘is as ludicrous as blaming the inventor of the mimeograph for email spam.’

THE DEVELOPMENT OF OXYCONTIN AND A MARKETING BLITZ:

Purdue’s first juggernaut was a painkiller called MS Contin (short for ‘continuous’), the morphine pill had a patented time release formula. But with the patent expiration date looming, the Sacklers began developing another drug to replace it in order to avoid generic competition.

Dr Andrew Kolodny, an addiction expert and Co-Director of Opioid Policy Research at Brandeis University, previously told DailyMail.com: ‘MS Contin was coming off patent, and that product had only really been prescribed to people with cancer at the end of life.’

‘You’re not going to make much money if your product is only being used by people at the end of their life. So they wanted to make a product prescribed for common chronic pain – people with pain from cancer is not a common condition.’

The pharmaceutical company then developed a pill made from pure oxycodone, which is a synthetic cousin of heroin that is twice as powerful, and cheap to produce. Similar to MS Contin, they made OxyContin with a controlled release formula. The potency exceeded any prescription painkiller on the market.

‘In terms of narcotic firepower, OxyContin was a nuclear weapon,’ writes Barry Meier in his book, Pain Killer: A Wonder Drug’s Tale of Addiction and Death.

Without any clinical studies, the FDA took the unwonted step in approving OxyContin for the treatment of moderate to severe pain. In another unprecedented move, they also allowed for it to be advertised as a safer alternative to other painkillers.

According to the New Yorker, Dr. Curtis Wright, (the F.D.A. examiner who approved the drug), left the agency shortly after to take high-paying job at Purdue Pharma.

The development and marketing of OxyContin was mainly the purview of Raymond’s son, Richard Sackler, who joined the family firm in 1971 after graduating from medical school. He served as president of Purdue Pharma from 1999 to 2018.

THE SACKLERS’ DEAL AS THEY APOLOGIZE FOR THEIR ROLE IN FUELING AMERICA’S OPIOID CRISIS 

The Sackler family reached a deal with attorney generals from California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and D.C. on Thursday over the role that their company, Purdue Pharma, had in America’s opioid crisis.

The family has agreed to:

  • In exchange, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits 
  • Up their personal contribution to state and local governments across the nation from $4.8 billion to $6 billion
  • Give up control of Purdue Pharma so it can be turned into a new entity with profits used to fight the crisis 
  • Issue an apology for their role in the crisis and allow victims and their families to address them through videoconference 
  • Allow any medical centers and art or educational institutions bearing the Sackler name – like Harvard and Columbia University and The Smithsonian – to have it removed from their buildings 

In exchange, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits 

 

Richard was so intrinsic to the company, that he is portrayed in a recent new Hulu drama about the opioid crisis, titled Dopesick. NPR likened him to a ‘Bond villain.’

Purdue unleashed a marketing blitz when OxyContin hit the shelves in 1996. A press release advertising the drug promised 12 hours of ‘smooth and sustained pain control’, diminished presence of ‘common opioid-related side effects’, and ‘improved patients’ quality of life, mood, and sleep’.

They assembled an army of sales representatives to peddle the pills for a huge range of ailments, asserting that the drug created dependency in ‘fewer than one percent’ of patients.

The strategies that Arthur developed in his career as an adman were critical to the painkiller’s spectacular success.

Politico says the number of drug-company sales reps ‘ballooned from 38,000 in 1995 to more than 100,000 five years later.’ They seduced doctors – particularly those who prescribed in high volumes – with friendly visits, free samples, gifts, paid lunches and trips to warm destinations.

The pharma company incentivized their salesmen with the highest paying bonuses in the industry. According to internal budget plans uncovered by the New Yorker, the company described their sales force as its ‘most valuable resource.’ In 2001, Purdue paid forty million dollars in bonuses.

One former rep told the magazine how they trained them to ‘overcome objections’ with ready-to-go talking points. If a clinician inquired about addiction, they recited: ‘The delivery system is believed to reduce the abuse liability of the drug.’

In 2002, a sales manager from the company named William Gergely, explained to a Florida state investigator that Purdue higher-ups ‘told us to say things like it is ‘virtually’ non-addicting.’

Using data from I.M.S, a company co-founded by Arthur Sackler, Purdue would analyze the prescribing habits of doctors and know which ones to target in their sales pitch. Four different people in the New Yorker’s investigation claimed that these OxyContin-friendly pill-pushers were known as ‘whales’ internally – which is Las Vegas casino term reserved for heavy gamblers.

They also distributed OxyContin ‘swag’ including plush bears emblazoned with the drug’s logo, fishing hats, and even a dance CD titled ‘Swing Is Alive: Swing in the right direction with OxyContin’.

This strategy was a massive commercial success. According to Purdue, OxyContin generated approximately thirty billion dollars in revenue, making the Sacklers unspeakably rich.

AMERICA ADDICTED:

Though it was billed a miracle 12-hour drug, doctors were hearing increasingly from patients that it didn’t last nearly that long. Rather than prescribing the drug at more frequent intervals, Purdue was dedicated to sticking to its selling point, and instead told sales representatives to ‘refocus’ and push OxyContin pills with higher dosages, according to the LA Times.

Addiction expert Dr Kolodony told DailyMail.com: ‘Patients who were on the drug long-term would need higher and higher doses to get effective release, and they projected opioids as having no ceiling, so the people they were giving money to were telling doctors that when the patient gets tolerant, just give them even more of the drug.’

By 2002, OxyContin was leading the nation in pain relief, accounting for 68 per cent of all oxycodone sales.

In the five years prior (1997 to 2002) there was a 402 per cent increase in the sale of oxycodone, and a 346 per cent increase of emergency hospitalizations due to oxycodone consumption.

America had become addicted – and they weren’t just swallowing the pills, they were crushing them, snorting them, and injecting their numbing contents to get high.

A CRISIS OF EPIC PROPORTONS:

In 2016, drug overdoses took the lives of 64,070 people – outnumbering the total American lives lost in the entirety of the Vietnam War. In total, more than 500,000 people have died in the last 20 years.

Today, it’s the leading cause of death in America– greater than gun violence and car accidents combined – and has devastated families across the country.

Purdue Pharma has made some effort to rectify the rampant addiction to their products. In 2012, the company debuted an abuse-deterrent version of OxyContin. Unlike its original formula, the new OxyContin cannot be crushed into a powder that can be snorted. Rather, it dissolves into a gel-like substance – which makes it more difficult to be injected.

By 2013, the FDA had outlawed the original formula of OxyContin, only allowing sales of its new gel version. Still, drug deaths climbed, particularly in rural areas where there is more manual labor. Because of the greater likelihood of developing chronic pain in manual labor, doctors in rural areas tend to prescribe painkillers ‘more aggressively,’ according to Dr Kolodny.

Nearly two decades after a letter to the Editor of the New England Journal of Medicine pioneered OxyContin’s initial safety – the same publication condemned it.

A study published in the journal revealed that most opioid users found ways around the new abuse-deterrent formula, and once addicted, they switched to cheaper options – primarily heroin.

Experts say that most people who become addicted to heroin began as OxyContin users who were prescribed the drug for a legitimate medical condition. In addition, despite the fact that heroin deaths are rising among a younger population, he says that it is actually older people who are dying in greater numbers from OxyContin overdoses because they are prescribed it more often.

In Appalachia, where opioid overdose deaths are among the highest in the nation, state officials were determined to confront the Sacklers with the proof of what OxyContin and heroin had done to their residents.

As a result of the lawsuit, Purdue conducted a report on Pike County, Kentucky – an area substantially affected by the opioid crisis, as an attempt to demonstrate the potential for bias in their jury.

The report was damning: 29 per cent of Pike County residents said they personally knew, or someone in their family knew of someone who had died of an OxyContin overdoes, and 70 per cent of the sampled demographic said OxyContin was ‘devastating’ to the area.

Pike County isn’t even the hardest-hit by overdose deaths in Kentucky. A 2016 Overdose Fatality Report found that the counties containing the state’s largest cities, Louisville and Lexington, saw 1,782 overdose deaths that year alone, compared to just 128 in Pike County.

THE CASCADE OF LEGAL PROBLEMS AND BANKRUPTCY FILING:

In May 2007, the company pleaded guilty to misleading the public about OxyContin’s risk of addiction and agreed to pay a $600 million fine (equivalent to approximately $749M today) in one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in US history.

But more legal troubles ensued. In May 2018, six states—Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas—filed lawsuits over Purdue’s deceptive marketing practices, adding to 16 previously filed lawsuits by other U.S. states and Puerto Rico.

By January 2019, 36 states were suing Purdue Pharma. Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey complains in her ‘lawsuit that eight members of the Sackler family are ‘personally responsible’ for the deception. She alleges they ‘micromanaged’ a ‘deceptive sales campaign.’

As the result of a cascade of litigation, the company filed for bankruptcy in August 2019, under the weight of 2,900 lawsuits.

After two years of protracted deliberations the Sacklers finally reached a deal with plaintiffs in bankruptcy court in September 2021. As part of their Chapter 11 proposal, they agreed to pay $4.5 billion and give up all ownership of the company in exchange for complete immunity in all future opioid liability.

In the settlement, Purdue Pharma would be dissolved and restructured as a new company called ‘Knoa Pharma’ that will develop and distribute overdose-reversal medicines and be run by independent board members (with no ties to the Sacklers). All profits will go toward addiction treatment and prevention programs.

But not everyone was satisfied. Especially because the deal allowed the Sacklers to pay off claimants through bankruptcy of their company, while keeping their own personal wealth. (A special filing in bankruptcy court revealed that the family moved $1.36 billion to off-shore accounts as lawsuits mounted against them).

‘This is a bitter result,’ said Judge Drain, when delivering his ruling. ‘B-I-T-T-E-R!’

Another hotly contested point was the immunity provision that absolves the Sacklers from future opioid related lawsuits.

Ten attorney generals in the states of California, Washington, Delaware, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Oregon, Maryland, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia appealed the decision and the settlement was overturned, two months later, on December 16, 2021.

After marathon negotiations between the holdout states and the Sacklers, the two parties finally agreed to a new set of terms after the pharma-family tacked on an extra $1.5 billion to their settlement for a total contribution of $6 billion.

All the states and local governments will get a slightly bigger payout than the original deal signed in September 2021, but the the 10 holdout states would get even more, as a reward for their resistance.

The family got to keep their hard-fought immunity deal in exchange for agreeing to other conditions that would allow for museums, universities and other institutions to remove the Sackler name from buildings and scholarships.

An apology is not something Sackler family members have unequivocally offered in the past, but the new settlement gives victims a rare forum in court to address the Sacklers by videoconference on March 9.

For many, the $6 billion payout is not enough. In October 2020, the federal Council of Economic Advisers said economic toll from opioids between 2015 and 2018 alone was more than $2.5 trillion for the cost of healthcare, law enforcement and social services.

Others are disappointed in the paltry $750 million victim’s compensation fund. ‘Many of us hoped to be first in the settlement—as the people actually harmed by OxyContin. Instead, we were last,’ said Ryan Hampton, an advocate for those affected by the drug. Payouts will be assessed at a sliding scale, with an average of $5,000 per family. That is a ‘fraction of what we deserved to compensate for years of illness, family loss and death.’

The crisis only got worse as negotiations dragged on, overdoses spiked to record levels during the pandemic. The holdout states faced a dilemma whether they should keep hammering the Sacklers in court, or take the new cash offer. In the end, two in the hand is worth one in the bush.

‘It was take it or leave it,’ Hampton told the Times.

Sackler family – billionaire owners of OxyContin creator Purdue Pharma – reaches deal with nine state AGs to pay up to $6B for their role in fueling opioid crisis and can’t deny organizations who want to remove their name from their buildings

The billionaire Sackler family and their company, Purdue Pharma – makers of OxyContin – reached a settlement on Thursday over its role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis with nine state attorney generals, with the family boosting their cash contribution to as much as $6 billion.

The deal follows an earlier settlement that had been appealed by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia, and also allows any medical centers and art or educational institutions bearing the Sackler name to have it removed from their buildings.

The attorney generals agreed to sign on after the Sacklers kicked in more cash – including a portion that just those jurisdictions would control – and accepted other terms, including apologizing. In exchange, the family would be protected from civil lawsuits.

In all, the plan could be more than $10 billion over time. It calls for members of the Sackler family to give up control of the Stamford, Connecticut-based company so it can be turned into a new entity with profits used to fight the crisis.

An apology is something Sackler family members have not unequivocally offered in the past. And victims are to have a forum, by videoconference, in court to address Sackler family members – something they have not been able to do in a public setting.

The settlement, outlined in a report filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, still must be approved by a judge.

‘The Sackler families are pleased to have reached a settlement with additional states that will allow very substantial additional resources to reach people and communities in need,’ the apology reads.

‘The families have consistently affirmed that settlement is by far the best way to help solve a serious and complex public health crisis. While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities.’

Most of the the money is to flow to state and local governments, Native American tribes and some hospitals, with the requirement that it be used to battle an opioid crisis that has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. over the past two decades.

The new plan was hammered out with attorneys general from the eight states and D.C. who had opposed the earlier one, arguing that it did not properly hold Sackler family members accountable.

Families of overdose victims see the settlement in different ways.

For Suzanne Domagala, of Millville, Delaware, even a modest payout to victims from the Sackler family is important, though she is still upset that the wealthy family is getting protection from lawsuits.

Domagala´s son Zach, a Marine Corps reservist, became addicted after injuring his shoulder during boot camp. When he died in 2017, she said, she didn´t have the money to bury him, and it took a few years before she could afford a headstone.

‘That´s why when you´re looking at the costs of these things, money is such a trivial thing,’ she said, ‘but it´s the only way to exact any justice.’

Ed Bisch, whose 18-year-old son died of an overdose 20 years ago, is glad states pushed Sackler family members to pay more but still called the settlement ‘a horrible deal’ because so many parents who buried loved ones won´t see money – and the Sacklers will still be wealthy and free.

‘Guess what? They still made billions and billions of dollars,’ he said. ‘Without any jail time, where is the deterrent? We´ve lost two generations to their greed.’

William Tong, the attorney general of Connecticut, said in a statement that the latest settlement was a step in the right direction but still not enough for the victims.

‘This settlement resolves our claims against Purdue and the Sacklers, but we are not done fighting for justice against the addiction industry and against our broken bankruptcy code.’

The deal would not shield members of the family from criminal charges – though there´s no indication any are forthcoming.

Individual victims and their survivors are to share a $750 million fund, a key provision not found in other opioid settlements.

About 149,000 people made claims in advance and could qualify for shares from the fund; others with opioid use disorder and the survivors of those who died are shut out.

That amount is unchanged in the new plan, but states will be able to create funds they can use to compensate victims beyond that, if they choose.

‘We´re pleased with the settlement achieved in mediation, under which all of the additional settlement funds will be used for opioid abatement programs, overdose rescue medicines, and victims,’ Purdue said in a statement.

‘With this mediation result, we continue on track to proceed through the appeals process on an expedited schedule, and we hope to swiftly deliver these resources.’

The deal would also allow institutions like the Smithsonian and Harvard, who feature the Sackler name on their building to remove it after both institutions said they were legally bound to keep the name.

Critics have accused the billionaire family of ‘art-washing’ their money, as their money has in some cases been given out on the condition that their name be celebrated in exhibits and buildings.

Last month, the Tate Modern museum, in London, was the latest institution to remove the Sackler name and give up donations due to the family’s tie with the opioid crisis.

Kentucky and Oklahoma are not part of the deal because they both reached previous settlements with Purdue.

Purdue Pharma, the originator of time-release versions of powerful prescription painkillers, is the highest-profile company out of many that have faced lawsuits over the crisis. It has twice pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to its business practices around OxyContin.

The latest announcement follows another landmark settlement late last week, when drug maker Johnson & Johnson and three distributors finalized a settlement that will send $26 billion over time to virtually every state and local governments throughout the U.S.

If the latest Purdue deal wins approval, the two settlements will give local communities that have been devastated by opioid addiction a significant boost to help them combat the epidemic.

There are two key differences between the the latest Purdue settlement and the previous one struck last year. The Sacklers’ cash contribution has gone up by at least $1.2 billion, and state attorneys general and the District of Columbia have now agreed.

As recently as February 18, a mediator said a small but unspecified number of states were still holding out.

Last year, the eight states – California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington – and D.C. refused to sign on, and then most of them appealed after the deal was approved by the bankruptcy judge.

In December, a U.S. district judge sided with the nine holdouts. The judge, Colleen McMahon, rejected the settlement with a finding that bankruptcy judges lack the authority to grant legal protection to people who don´t themselves file for bankruptcy when some parties disagree.

Purdue appealed that decision, which, if left standing, could have scuttled a common method of reaching settlements in sweeping, complicated lawsuits.

Meanwhile, U.S Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain, who had approved the earlier plan, ordered the parties into mediation and on several occasions gave them more time to hammer out a deal.

The new plan still requires Drain´s approval. Appeals related to the previous version of the plan could continue moving through the court system.

In a separate push to hold the Sacklers accountable for the opioid crisis, a group of seven U.S. senators, all Democrats, wrote the U.S. Department of Justice in February asking prosecutors to consider criminal charges against family members.



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