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Sackler Family's Pharma Saga: Fresh Lawsuit Claims

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , April 2, 2019


As previously reported, the controversy has shone a harsh spotlight on the intersection of philanthropy and reputation.

The woes of the Sackler family, recently highlighting the clash that can occur between philanthropy and reputation, continued last week.

A lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James attacked the family, owner of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma, for saying that he lamented that "criminal addicts" are portrayed as victims in society.

As reported by the New York Times and other outlets, the suit claims claims that Richard Sackler described opioid addicts as "criminal" and said the company should not be held responsible for them "being glorified as some sort of populist victim."

“I’ll tell you something that will totally revise your belief that addicts don’t want to be addicted. It is factually untrue. They get themselves addicted over and over again," Sackler was quoted as saying.

Sackler, who is a registered physician and was president of Purdue's executive board from 1999 to 2003, continues to state that the company and its executives cannot be held responsible for individuals who abuse the use of its prescription drugs. His stance adds to debate about where personal responsibility ends and corporate culpability starts in such cases.

As previously reported by Family Wealth Report and elsewhere, a number of US and non-US museums and philanthropic causes have ceased accepting money from the Sacklers. The case highlights how philanthropy can be arguably misused to manage a donor's reputation. (See the article here.)

In 2007, Purdue pleaded guilty to charges of intentionally misleading the public on the risks of addiction from OxyContin. The company was forced to pay $634.5 million in government penalties and costs. Purdue, however, continued to manufacture the drug, the report said.

As reported last week, a new federal lawsuit has been filed by 600 cities, counties and Native American tribes alleging that eight Sackler family members were involved in deceptive marketing practices of Purdue Pharma and its painkiller drug. The company has settled a lawsuit with the state of Oklahoma that will require Purdue and the family to pay $270 million for research, education and treatment.

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