When people think of illegal drugs and drug abuse, they often times have a certain picture in their minds. Common ones include a black man on the corner of an impoverished neighborhood in any major American city as a “street pharmacist,” a Hispanic man driving a car from the US border carrying a car filled with drugs and guns, or a white man in a trailer with makeshift equipment finishing production and getting ready to load his pickup truck to make deliveries.
However, the biggest drug dealer in the US is unquestionably the Sacklers, a Jewish family from New York who hold the patents for the drug OxyContin through their company Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which has been cited as being directly responsible for much of the “opioid crisis” in the USA. The Sacklers aggressively marketed OxyContin to doctors and medical institutions knowing full well the effects that the drug would have on people, its propensity to cause extreme addiction and thus increase profits for them at the expense of those they were claiming to help, and then to hide these facts and in so doing deceive the public. As a result of their actions, hundreds of thousands of people have died and even more lives permanently altered in the name of profit from a few evil men who believe that other men’s lives are but cattle for them.
After many years, the Sacklers have finally been forced into court, and it has come out that not only did the Sacklers know about the addictive nature of the drugs, but began decades ago trying to cover up for the addiction they knew it would cause by blaming those who became addicted and calling them “the problem” according to a report:
Members of the Sackler family, which owns the company that makes OxyContin, directed years of efforts to mislead doctors and patients about the dangers of the powerful opioid painkiller, a court filing citing previously undisclosed documents contends.
When evidence of growing abuse of the drug became clear in the early 2000s, one of them, Richard Sackler, advised pushing blame onto people who had become addicted.
“We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” Mr. Sackler wrote in an email in 2001, when he was president of the company, Purdue Pharma. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
That email and other internal Purdue communications are cited by the attorney general of Massachusetts in a new court filing against the company, released on Tuesday. They represent the first evidence that appears to tie the Sacklers to specific decisions made by the company about the marketing of OxyContin. The aggressive promotion of the drug helped ignite the opioid epidemic.
The filing contends that Mr. Sackler, a son of a Purdue Pharma founder, urged that sales representatives advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the powerful opioid painkiller because it was the most profitable.
Since OxyContin came on the market in 1996, more than 200,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and Purdue Pharma has been the target of numerous lawsuits.
For years, Purdue Pharma has sought to depict the Sackler family as removed from the day-to-day operations of the company. The Sacklers, whose name adorns museums and medical schools around the world, are one of the richest families in the United States, with much of their wealth derived from sales of OxyContin. Disclosure of the documents is likely to renew calls for institutions to decline their philanthropic gifts.
In a statement, Purdue Pharma, which is based in Stamford, Conn., rejected suggestions of wrongdoing by the company or members of the Sackler family, describing the court filing as “littered with biases and inaccurate characterizations.” The statement said the company was working to curtail the use and misuse of prescription painkillers.
Asked for a response from Richard Sackler and other members of the Sackler family, a Purdue Pharma spokesman, Robert Josephson, said that the company had no additional comment.
In 2007, the company and three of its top executives pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges that Purdue had misrepresented the dangers of OxyContin, and they paid $634.5 million in fines. The Sacklers were not accused of any wrongdoing and have not faced personal legal consequences over the drug.
But last June, Maura Healey, the Massachusetts attorney general, sued eight members of the Sackler family, along with the company and numerous executives and directors, alleging that they had misled doctors and patients about OxyContin’s risks. The suit also claimed that the company aggressively promoted the drug to doctors who were big prescribers of opioids, including physicians who later lost their licenses.
The court filing released on Tuesday also asserts that Sackler family members were aware that Purdue Pharma repeatedly failed to alert authorities to scores of reports the company had received that OxyContin was being abused and sold on the street. The company also used pharmacy discount cards to increase OxyContin’s sales and Richard Sackler, who served as Purdue Pharma’s president from 1999 to 2003, led a company strategy of blaming abuse of the drug on addicts, the suit claimed.
In 1995, when the Food and Drug Administration approved OxyContin, it allowed Purdue Pharma to claim that the opioid’s long-acting formulation was “believed to reduce” its appeal to drug abusers compared with traditional painkillers such as Percocet and Vicodin.
At a gathering shortly afterward to celebrate the drug’s launch, Mr. Sackler boasted that “the launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white,” according to a document cited in the legal complaint.
Company sales representatives told doctors that OxyContin couldn’t be abused and were trained to say that the drug had an addiction risk for patients of “less than one percent,” a claim that had no scientific backing. Within a few years, Purdue Pharma was selling more than $1 billion worth of OxyContin annually.
But abuse of the drug quickly grew as teenagers and others discovered that all they needed to do was to crush OxyContin to get access to large amounts of a pure narcotic, oxycodone, contained in the pills.
The court filing depicts Richard Sackler both as a principal force behind OxyContin’s promotion and the company’s efforts to dismiss growing reports about the drug’s abuse in the early 2000s.
For instance, when a federal prosecutor reported in 2001 that there had been 59 overdose deaths involving OxyContin in his state alone, Mr. Sackler appeared to make light of the problem, a document cited in the court filing suggests.
“This is not too bad,” he wrote to the company officials. “It could have been far worse.”
As part of the 2007 settlement agreement, the board of Purdue Pharma, which included members of the Sackler family, signed a corporate integrity agreement with the federal government promising that the company would not violate the law in the future.
However, Ms. Healey asserted in her lawsuit filed last year that Purdue Pharma, with the knowledge of the Sacklers, continued to illegally market the drug, including promoting its use at levels that increased the drug’s dangers.
Also, while Richard Sackler and other members of the family had resigned their operating posts either before or after the 2007 settlement of the Justice Department lawsuit, they still continued to control the company and its decisions, the lawsuit claims.
In a 2012 email, one Purdue Pharma sales official complained about Richard Sackler’s micromanagement of the company’s sales and marketing activities.
“Anything you could do to reduce the direct contact of Richard into the organization is appreciated,” that official wrote.
In its statement, Purdue Pharma said that federal officials in 2013 had reviewed the company’s performance under the five-year corporate integrity agreement and found it in complete compliance.
Purdue Pharma, first known as Purdue Frederick, was founded in 1952 by three brothers, Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, all physicians who left medicine to pursue careers in the drug business.
When Arthur Sackler died in 1987, his two younger brothers, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, purchased his stake in the company. They both died more recently.
In 2016, Forbes magazine estimated the family’s wealth at about $13 billion. However, the precise figure is unknown because Purdue Pharma is privately held.
A confidential 2006 Department of Justice memorandum prepared in connection with the federal government’s case against Purdue Pharma concluded that the drug maker was aware of OxyContin’s growing abuse soon after it came onto the market in 1996.
That document also cited internal Purdue Pharma documents and emails that indicated members of the Sackler family had received reports about the abuse of OxyContin and another long-acting narcotic painkiller, MS Contin, sold by Purdue Pharma. The memorandum, however, did not suggest any wrongdoing by members of the Sackler family. (source, source)
This is a very serious case, and given the heavy sentences handed out to drug traffickers and manufacturers, the Sackler brothers are worthy of death for their crimes because of the evils they have done in their drug peddling, as they have been essentially selling heroin to the public.
Oxycontin is the trade name for a variant of oxycodone. Many people know that oxycodone is an opioid, meaning that it comes from the poppy plant, specifically Papaver Somniferum (sometimes referred to as P. Somniferum). What is not explained further is how the poppy becomes oxycodone.
P. Somniferum naturally contains opium. Even eating a small part of the plant will put opioids into a person’s system. This is the reason why if a person who eats even one poppy-seed bagel will trigger a positive test for opioids on a drug test. But unlike some drugs, such as marijuana, opioids flushes out relatively quickly.
What happens in most cases is that the “gum” from poppy pods is extracted by cutting the pods in a field and harvesting the resin. This is raw opium, and it can be refined to get out small things such as sticks, twigs, and so forth. The step to making morphine is rather simply, just adding a strong base such as Calcium hydroxide (a.k.a. Quicklime) and a few simple calculations to precipitate out Calcium Morphinate, or Morphine base from opium.
I describe this process because one must understand that on a small or medium-level operation, this is the only way that one can make a profit from selling opioids if one wants to truly “make” his own drugs. It takes 180 days to from seed to maturity for a poppy plant, usually planted at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes. Because of the wait time from seed to harvest and the work involved, the only profitable way for such a “producer” is to keep to simple an nearly foolproof means of producing drugs.
Heroin production is more interesting because just like with the production of oxycodone, it comes out of the late 19th and early 20th century’s attempts to make a more powerful painkiller from existing morphene. In both cases, it resulted in the creation of a drug with greater sensual and illusory effects but without an increase in painkilling power, thus making not a better painkilling product, but a more addictive product.
Heroin is made by a long baking sessions (5+ hours) and must be carefully watched reaction under controlled temperatures through a mixture of morphine with acetic anhydride, a chemical that is very hard to purchase in the USA and purchases are closely monitored because with the exception of certain types of classical photo processing, is almost used exclusively for drug production. It is not only expensive and difficult to acquire, but easily can destroy a batch of morphine or can kill the person making it.
But even heroin production is more profitable than making oxycodone, which is derived from codeine and thebane, two alkaloids found in poppy production in quantities of 1% to 3% but no higher. While it is true that scientists have been working on ways to translate between different types of opioids, including even the use of yeast to produce opiates, and that some poppy species have higher concentrates of such alkaloids such as Papaver Bractreatum, the fact is that oxycodone production was and remains a labor-intensive process that barring a very large and constant supply of very cheap, free, or subsidized poppies as a source of raw material, it is almost impossible to produce heroin or oxycodone at such low prices as they are currently sold for.
Thus when one hears about the “cheap price” of heroin, one cannot say that it is just “heroin dealers” because a “street pharmacist” in the US could not produce such quantities of product to justify the prices it is being sold for. The only way that it could happen would be by mass production, such as that of a large corporation or of a government who has vast resources and can profit from extremely thin margins, or in the case of subsidy, can reduce prices even further because the burden of cost is being covered by somebody else, such as the average taxpayer.
People ask themselves why are US soldiers protecting poppy fields in Afghanistan. To the same question, while it is known that the Afghans will grow poppies to sell for drug production, could there be somebody who is subsidizing their production and providing fertilizer and seed to them?
That is a question that few want to answer, let alone to ask what purpose it may be being done for.
But regarding the Sacklers, one must not be so crass as to follow in their actions and simply blame the addicted. While it is true that people have a responsibility for their behaviors, many people of good will were given these drugs knowing their ability to get people addicted and to have a hard time quitting, knowing the consequence that would ensue and then fully denying any involvement in the crisis. There is no “opioid crisis” right now and, unlike the desires of the Sackler brothers, no need for more “enforcement” of opioid laws because the laws are already in force to deal with the drug issues, and the problem is easily identified as one of policy and business supported by government and the military-industrial complex.
This is why the Sackler case is so important. While there are certainly bigger individuals and entities to deal with, they are finally being forced to go to court to address at least some of the issues they have caused and been allowed to cause in the name of policy and profit gain at the expense of the many. They are no different than the cartels of the Americas, except instead of a “Mexican mafia” carrying cuernos de chivo (the narco term for AK-47 rifles) and shooting those who criticize them, this is a cabal from New York that carries their pills with a pocketful of salesmen to push their poison “legally” on the public and when they are criticized, ready with their armies of lawyers, publicists, and public relations “experts” ready to bully, intimidate, and legally harass anybody who dares to question the cartel.