Sunday, January 29

Purdue Pharma: New York Federal Judge Throws Out Settlement Against Sackler Family Over Opioid Crisis | Society


Bottles of the pain reliever OxyContin in a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, in April 2017.
Bottles of the pain reliever OxyContin in a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, in April 2017.George Frey (Reuters)

A federal judge in the Southern District of New York has thrown out a $ 4.5 billion settlement whereby the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, was protected from future overdose lawsuits of their flagship drug, OxyContin, the Highly addictive painkiller whose use fueled the opioid crisis that has caused more than half a million fatalities since 1999. The ruling leaves the drug’s restructuring plans pending after filing for bankruptcy, part of the agreement with thousands of Local, state and tribal administrations that had sued the company for its prominent role in the public health crisis, which has claimed 100,000 lives in the US in the last year alone.

The arduous negotiation of the agreement had taken place on September 1, when, with the approval of the bankruptcy file and the dissolution of the company, justice ended a years-long dispute against Purdue Pharma. The ruling guaranteed immunity from future lawsuits to the Sackler family, in exchange for the payment of $ 4.5 billion to the more than 3,000 plaintiffs.

Until District Judge Colleen McMahon in Manhattan ruled Thursday that the bankruptcy court did not have the legal authority to exempt the family from civil or criminal liability. McMahon noted that the ruling will likely be appealed to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by attorneys for the Sackler family. The name has been inextricably linked to the health crisis, to the point that museums such as the New York Metropolitan, or university research departments, are in the process of erasing the toxic traces of their philanthropy by removing the surname from their rooms.

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Purdue Pharma is not the only pharmaceutical company to be held responsible for the worst public health crisis in the United States between AIDS and the coronavirus pandemic. Other large companies, such as Johnson & Johnson, have reached private agreements with the courts to evade their action in exchange for billions of dollars. But Purdue Pharma has been the almost absolute protagonist at the hands of OxyContin, an opioid (a synthetic derivative of opium) much more addictive than morphine and whose degree of dependence the pharmacist knowingly concealed the risk posed by its consumption.

OxyContin became popular as an effective remedy for chronic pain, as the goal of the Sackler family was from the beginning to expand the market well beyond the small business niche represented by the usual prescription of morphine derivatives for cancer patients or terminal patients. . Prescribed legally and massively, with aggressive marketing campaigns, the dependence created by OxyContin led many patients to the use of illegal drugs such as fentanyl, up to 100 times more potent than morphine and which has triggered deaths from overdoses in the country.

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019 to evade the offensive of thousands of lawsuits. After the September ruling that theoretically ended the dispute, the bankruptcy administrator of the Department of Justice and some dissatisfied states appealed the arrangement, considering that the Sacklers did not have the right to a safeguard that would shield them from new lawsuits because they themselves did not they had filed for bankruptcy. The Sacklers had made this protection a prerequisite in exchange for contributing $ 4.5 billion to the settlement.

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Between 2008 and 2018, the company transferred about 10 billion dollars to the accounts of different members of the Sackler family, half of which was used to pay taxes or new business investments, according to expert documents; their lawyers insist there is no evidence that they did so in anticipation of possible bankruptcy. “The big question to answer in this case is whether the bankruptcy court, or any court, is authorized by law to grant such protections,” has been the judge’s main argument for reopen a dispute that, like the crisis caused by OxyContin, threatens to become entrenched in time.

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