“[The contents of the lawsuit] appear to be discussions of tactics that could be used to promote the sales of OxyContin (particularly in higher doses), to encourage doctors to prescribe the drug over longer periods of time, and to circumvent safeguards put in place to stop illegal prescriptions”Judge Janet Sanders
- The Sackler family owns Purdue Pharma which is being sued by several states, cities and counties
- They have made billions by marketing and selling OxyContin since 1995
- In Massachusetts, a judge declared on Tuesday that the case against the family would be unsealed
- It means the family, which is notoriously private, will have to lay bare truths about how they promoted the drug and how they run the business
- Purdue is worth an estimated $14billion but the Sackler’s family wealth is hard to pin down
- They live extravagantly across the US and in London, where some members of the dynasty have been honored with knighthoods
- The business was founded by brothers Raymond, Arthur and Mortimer who are now all dead
- Their descendants now grace the social circuits of London and Manhattan
- The family of one brother, Arthur, do not associate with the others and are not involved in the business
The secrets of the Sackler family, the pharmaceutical dynasty who own the company accused of sparking America’s opioid crisis with its mass production and aggressive marketing of OxyContin, will be laid bare in court despite their efforts to keep them private.
On Monday, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders rejected the family’s attempts to keep the lawsuit filed against them and their company, Purdue Pharma, by the state of Massachusetts sealed, saying the details they seek to protect belong in the public domain.
The full lawsuit – which has been heavily redacted and has not been released publicly – must now be released, free of redacts, by February 1.
It will expose for the first time the tactics the family used to not only push the highly addictive painkiller through the pharmaceutical industry and in to millions of American homes and hospitals, but also the efforts they took to try to ‘circumvent safeguards put in place to stop illegal prescription,’ according to Sanders. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey welcomed the judge’s decision on Tuesday, saying in a statement: ‘For many years, Purdue, its executives, and members of the Sackler family have tried to shift the blame and hide their role in creating the opioid epidemic.
‘We are grateful to the court for lifting the impoundment on our complaint so that the public and families so deeply impacted by this crisis can see the allegations of the misconduct that has harmed so many.’
In pages of the lawsuit already made public, Healey claims the family aggressively pushed the painkiller to doctors despite knowing how addictive it is.
Family members even claimed the tens of thousands of deaths attributed to their drug were ‘only the tip of the iceberg’ but still pressed hard for more sales, the lawsuit claims.
‘In 1997, Richard Sackler, Kathe Sackler, and other Purdue executives determined — and recorded in secret internal correspondence — that doctors had the crucial misconception that OxyContin was weaker than morphine, which led them to prescribe OxyContin much more often, even as a substitute for Tylenol,’ says Healey.
In her judgement, Judge Sanders said the family’s argument to keep the lawsuit redacted was ‘hardly compelling’.