The violence of the drug cartels comes in many forms. While the most well-known is that of guns and bloody violence, it also can come with volumes of legal documentation and the signing of a pen by men in suits. It is this latter form that has been the most insidious with the creation of the opioid crisis, something that was not generated naturally, but created in large part to the proliferation of opioid-based drugs distributed by doctors acting as legalized drug dealers. One of the most infamous of these companies was Purdue Pharmaceuticals, which was founded by and remains under the control of the Sackler family, who you can read more about here, who marketed and sold OxyContin while knowing that it was highly addictive and would lead to an epidemic of drug problems among its users.
Thousands of people have been filing lawsuits against Purdue Pharmaceuticals for the evil, immoral, and unethical conduct of the Sackler family. However, the Sacklers appear to be responding by filing for bankruptcy protection, thus being able to likely reduce or mitigate legal settlements while shielding their own persons from responsibility for their crimes they committed according to a report:
OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP is exploring filing for bankruptcy to address potentially significant liabilities from roughly 2,000 lawsuits alleging the drug manufacturer contributed to the deadly opioid crisis sweeping the United States, people familiar with the matter said on Monday.
The potential move shows how Purdue and its wealthy owners, the Sackler family, are under pressure to respond to mounting litigation accusing the drugmaker of misleading doctors and patients about risks associated with prolonged use of its prescription opioids.
Purdue denies the allegations, arguing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved labels for its opioids carried warnings about the risk of abuse and misuse associated with the pain treatments.
Filing for Chapter 11 protection would halt the lawsuits and allow Purdue to negotiate legal claims with plaintiffs under the supervision of a U.S. bankruptcy judge, the sources said.
Shares of Endo International PLC and Insys Therapeutics Inc, two companies that like Purdue have been named in lawsuits related to the U.S. opioid epidemic, were down more than 12 percent and more than 5 percent, respectively, on Monday morning.
More than 1,600 lawsuits accusing Purdue and other opioid manufacturers of using deceptive practices to push addictive drugs that led to fatal overdoses are consolidated in an Ohio federal court. Purdue has held discussions to resolve the litigation with plaintiffs’ lawyers, who have often compared the cases to widespread lawsuits against the tobacco industry that resulted in a $246 billion settlement in 1998.
BANKRUPTCY FILING NOT CERTAIN
A Purdue bankruptcy filing is not certain, the sources said. The Stamford, Connecticut-based company has not made any final decisions and could instead continue fighting the lawsuits, they said.
“As a privately-held company, it has been Purdue Pharma’s longstanding policy not to comment on our financial or legal strategy,” Purdue said in a statement.
“We are, however, committed to ensuring that our business remains strong and sustainable. We have ample liquidity and remain committed to meeting our obligations to the patients who benefit from our medicines, our suppliers and other business partners.”
Purdue faces a May trial in a case brought by Oklahoma’s attorney general that, like others, accuses the company of contributing to a wave of fatal overdoses by flooding the market with highly addictive opioids while falsely claiming the drugs were safe.
Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump also said he would like to sue drug companies over the nation’s opioid crisis.
Opioids, including prescription painkillers, heroin and fentanyl, were involved in 47,600 overdose deaths in 2017, a sixfold increase from 1999, according to the latest data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Purdue hired law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP for restructuring advice, Reuters reported in August, fueling concerns among litigants, including Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, that the company might seek bankruptcy protection before the trial.
Companies facing widespread lawsuits sometimes seek bankruptcy protection to address liabilities in one court even when their financial condition is not dire. California utility PG&E Corp filed for bankruptcy earlier this year after deadly wildfires raised the prospect of large legal bills even though its stock remained worth billions of dollars.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey in June became the first attorney general to sue not just Purdue but Sackler family members. Records in her case, which Purdue has asked a judge to dismiss, accused Sackler family members of directing deceptive marketing of opioids for years while enriching themselves to the tune of $4.2 billion.
Some other states have followed suit, also suing the Sacklers. The Sacklers are currently discussing creating a nonprofit backed by family financial contributions to combat addiction and drug abuse, said a person familiar with their deliberations.
The drugmaker downplayed the possibility of a bankruptcy filing in a Feb. 22 court filing in the Oklahoma case. “Purdue is still here – ready, willing and eager to prove in this Court that the State’s claims are baseless,” the company said in court papers.
Sales of OxyContin and other opioids have fallen amid public concern about their addictive nature, and as restrictions on opioid prescribing have been enacted. OxyContin generated $1.74 billion in sales in 2017, down from $2.6 billion five years earlier, according to the most recent data compiled by Symphony Health Solutions.
Purdue Chief Executive Officer Craig Landau has cut hundreds of jobs, stopped marketing opioids to physicians and moved the company toward developing medications for sleep disorders and cancer since taking the helm in 2017.
In July, Purdue appointed a new board chairman, Steve Miller, a restructuring veteran who held leadership positions at troubled companies including auto-parts giant Delphi and the once-teetering insurer American International Group Inc.
Mortimer D.A. Sackler is the sole member of Purdue’s founding family remaining on the company’s board, according to records maintained by the Connecticut secretary of state.
The Oklahoma case and other lawsuits seek damages from Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies accused of fueling the opioid crisis. In addition to lawsuits consolidated in an Ohio federal court, more than 300 cases are pending in state courts, and dozens of state attorneys general have sued manufacturers, including Purdue.
Settlement discussions have not yet resulted in a deal.
Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, according to court records. (source, source)
It will be interesting to see what the effects of this court case have on the opioid market as a whole in the US.
The question of this Sackler case is, in the US context, how will this affect the legitimate distribution of drugs to people who objectively benefit from such a use lest they become unable to function on account of said pain?
It is an observable fact that legitimate crises, small or large, are often times dealt with in blanket, thoughtless, overly-invasive manners in the US for political gain. This is not a recent problem but one that has existed throughout American history. The very existence of Prohibition- where the people wanted an amendment to the Constitution itself to outlaw most alcohol consumption, and just a little more than a decade later again amended the Constitution to allow it -shows how far such ideas can go in the public mind. The topic could be anything, but if something is deemed as “not desirable” in American society, there will be enough people who believe they can benefit from “riding” on the trend of public sentiment and so will create a rolling juggernaut that mercilessly destroys that particular target without any respect to possible effects such a narrow approach would have, whether it be on the target, those who are associated with the target, or even those who are doing said destruction.
This process is taking place right now with the Catholic Church, where in the US, many people are pushing so hard against the Church that if such pressure continues, it may compel the public to bring about a revision of the 501(c)3 laws so to strip the Church and even other religious institutions of their tax-exempt status and in so doing would have an effect on the Church that is a direct reflection of what happened in England under King Henry VIII.
But returning to the issue of the opioid crisis, the problem is not with the legitimate use of opioids, but with certain individuals and groups abusing medicines for their personal or political gain. In the case of the Sackler family, it was for their financial gain at the loss of millions of people who became addicted or had friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances suffer or die from their actions, and the Sacklers knew what would happen and still did not care.
It is true that many people who became addicted also bear a responsibility for their addiction. One cannot simply blame a company or third-party for all of one’s troubles, regardless of what the particular situation is.
Above is a photo of a poor urban area I am familiar with that encapsulates the dynamic of what I am describing.
The building on the left is a converted Catholic Church into a homeless shelter which serves the poorest of the poor in this city, and which takes the people that no other shelter wants to take. It is often referred to as the ‘last stop before prison’ because if a person is thrown out of it, the cops are usually called. The right side, directly across the street, is a small “corner store” of which I have blotted out the name. This “store” makes its money from selling cheap beer and liquor to homeless people.
It is true that the homeless people who go to the store do not have to buy alcohol, and it is their choice. However, because many of them have serious problems, including a common addiction to alcohol, this “store” is providing them with the very “tool” that helps realize their downfall, and is doing so by “legally” operating right across the street from the last hope that many of these people have lest they return to jail.
This is what the Sackler brothers are doing. Just like the grocery store here in the photo, they intentionally are targeting people who are they know are suffering or weak by the very place these people go for help, and using their situation to abuse them even more and profit from it.
This is what makes the crimes of that family so repulsive, and while it is true that they have the legal right and protection under law to file for bankruptcy so to safeguard their personal assets, they have no regard for those whose lives were forever destroyed by their actions.
It is likely bad enough that the Sacklers will not be held directly responsible for their actions, and to that fact how those who legitimately suffered will not be able to receive compensation. However, it would be worse if the result of this case was to bring about a general restriction of pain medication medicines using the emotions of the general public and genuine outrage as fuel that will result in a more serious epidemic of pain for many whose lives depend on such medications to function.
It is true that intentions need to be good, but having genuine intentions while acting in ways that bring about bad results is not a good thing, for as it is consistently demonstrated, the most evil of actions often times began with, were presented under, or were driven on an individual and public scale by the best of intentions until it was too late to change what had already been implemented, and it was only to regret the consequences which followed later.