On Thursday, members of the Sackler family—known for leading OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma—testified before the House Oversight Committee about their knowledge of the addictive nature of opioids when marketing the drug.
In their testimony, David Sackler, a former Purdue board member, and Kathe Sackler, a long-term board member and former vice president of the company, acknowledged that people became addicted to their company’s painkillers, but denied any wrongdoing on the part of the family. The pair also avoided questions about the immense amount of wealth the Sackler family has accumulated as a result of the sales of OxyContin. Although the remaining Sacklers on the board of the company left their roles in back 2018, Purdue Pharma has earned more than $30 billion since the drug first arrived on the market in 1996. OxyContin made the Sacklers billions while at the same time destroying countless families and communities and they can’t even muster a measly “sorry, our bad”?
In his opening statement, David Sackler expressed his family’s “deep sadness about the opioid crisis.” He continued on to claim that “OxyContin is a medicine that Purdue intended to help people, and it has helped and continues to help millions of Americans.”
The opioid crisis has killed more than 450,000 people in the U.S. over the past two decades. Over 3,000 cities, towns, and other jurisdictions are currently suing drug companies for their role in the epidemic, and many also hold the Sackler family partially responsible for misleading both prescribers and the public about the addictive and potentially deadly properties of the drug. In 2007, three Purdue executives (none of them members of the Sackler family) pled guilty to deceptive marketing charges in a $600 million settlement with the Justice Department—but the company continued to make money from OxyContin sales in the wake of the deal.
This fall, the Justice Department announced an $8.3 billion settlement to resolve the criminal and civil charges levied against Purdue Pharma as well as civil charges against several Sackler family members. The DOJ also decided to convert Purdue to a public benefit company, meaning that the company’s profits will be used to counteract the opioid crisis. However, the deal does not protect the Sackler family from potentially facing criminal charges.
After being repeatedly asked by representatives whether the family would apologize for the role they played in the opioid epidemic during the House hearing, Kathe Sackler responded:
“I have tried to figure out if there’s anything I could have done differently knowing what I knew then, not what I know now... I have to say there is nothing I can find that I would have done differently.”
Oxycodone, the active ingredient in OxyContin, is derived from opium poppies.