Dangerous Drugs

NY bankruptcy judge approves Purdue Pharma's $8 billion settlement, federal felony charges

December 2, 2020

Purdue has had to face countless courtrooms this year as the company has been confronted and held accountable for their actions that helped to create an opioid epidemic that is linked to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives throughout the U.S.

Purdue Pharma LP, known most commonly for producing the extremely addictive opioid Oxycontin, pleaded guilty last week to a three-count felony charge for their continued participation in trying to defeat federal opioid control programs, violating anti-kickback statutes, and several other felony acts. CEO and Chairman of Purdue Pharma, Robert S. Miller, answered for the company in their formal admittance of the felonies as a part of a larger settlement deal. The deal has aimed to charge top executives and turn the multi-billion dollar company into a public benefit company that will use their profit to fund state and local addiction programs as well as other public services.

What felony charges were brought against Purdue?

Purdue has had to face countless courtrooms this year as the company has been confronted and held accountable for their actions that helped to create an opioid epidemic that is linked to the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives throughout the U.S.

As part of the guilty plea, Purdue admitted that for a decade (May 2007 to at least March 2017) they conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). They were found to have impeded the DEA by selling to health care providers that they knew were diverting OxyContin to the black market. In addition to these charges, the opioid manufacturers were accused of paying doctors, and even an electronic health records company, to illegally boost the number of prescriptions written for their drugs OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla.

Rachel A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey, stated after the hearing that “Purdue admitted that it marketed and sold its dangerous opioid products to healthcare providers, even though it had reason to believe those providers were diverting them to abusers. The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.” 

In their admittance to these crimes, the true image of Purdue was brought to light. A company that has made billions of dollars of profit off knowingly addicting Americans to their opioid drugs without any concern for the lives of the individuals and families they were destroying. It is good to see the justice system stand up against these massive corporations that completely disregard the safety and wellbeing of their consumers to reach absurd profit goals. As stated by Christina Nolan, U.S Attorney for the District of Vermont:

"As today's plea to felony charges shows, Purdue put opioid profits ahead of people and corrupted the sacred doctor-patient relationship. We hope the company's guilty plea sends a message that the Justice Department will not allow big pharma and big tech to engage in illegal profit-generating schemes that interfere with sound medicine. We hope, also, that this guilty plea will bring some sense of justice to those who have suffered from opioid addictions involving oxycodone and some vindication for families and loved ones of those who did not survive such addiction."

What is to come for Purdue?

While the company is working out the details of the over $8 billion settlement that should bring an end to the company’s legal battles, their guilty plea does not include any protection against criminal and civil cases being brought against individuals involved in the felony conspiracies. Thankfully, the settlement did not include any criminal or civil protections. Because there was no protection included in the deal, members of the Sackler family, the company’s executives, and any other employees involved in the company’s illicit activity can be held accountable for their criminal behavior.

Calvin Shivers, Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division found the results of the settlement to be a warning to other companies that mimic these types of behavior will be held accountable, “this case makes clear that no company, including Purdue Pharma, whose actions harm the health and safety of the American public, is beyond the reach of law enforcement.” Shivers continued, “the opioid epidemic continues to spread across the United States impacting countless Americans and harming communities. Together with our law enforcement partners, the FBI is committed to investigating and holding criminals accountable for the roles they play in fueling this crisis.”   

While it is still unclear if any charges will be brought against these individuals, it is refreshing to see that they were not given widespread immunity to such charges, as is often the case. We will continue to bring the latest news and updates on this case as it unfolds. It is our hope that these lawsuits can bring about actual reformation within the pharmaceutical field and begin to aid those who are currently suffering from the opioid epidemic that still faces America.

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