Thursday, June 17

US Opposes “Unfair” Plan to Protect Sackler’s Wealth in Opioid Settlement | Opioid Crisis

Almost half of the US states have joined the growing opposition to a very unusual bankruptcy plan that would protect the wealth of the Sackler family after they made billions of dollars from the sale of the drug they started. the opioid epidemic in America

Attorneys General from 24 states, members of Congress, municipalities and families of the victims object to the Sacklers’ proposal to lose ownership of Purdue Pharma, maker of the powerful prescription painkiller OxyContin, and hand over part of their immense fortune in exchange for immunity from more litigation. for their involvement in a drug epidemic that has claimed more than 500,000 lives.

A federal judge in New York, who has already expressed sympathy for the plan, will decide after a hearing on Wednesday whether the Sacklers have made the financial disclosures necessary to move it to the final stage.

Criticism has focused on the unusual proposal to protect the wealth of individual Sacklers despite the fact that they seek bankruptcy only for their company and not for themselves.

Under the proposals, the two branches of the Sackler family that own Purdue Pharma would settle more than 3,000 lawsuits against the company by paying $ 4.3 billion. But the Sacklers would be left with around $ 7 billion that would be personally protected from legal action for the role played by some family members in the illegal campaign to mass market OxyContin for which Purdue has twice been convicted on criminal charges, in 2007 and last year.

State attorneys general called the proposed settlement “unfair” in a brief before the court, because it intends to evade individual responsibility and questioned its legality.

Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey told National Public Radio: “The bankruptcy system should not be allowed to protect billionaires who are not bankrupt.

“It would set a terrible precedent. If the Sacklers are allowed to use bankruptcy to escape the consequences of their actions. It would be a roadmap for other powerful bad actors, ”he said.

The US Department of Justice has also raised objections on the grounds that the court is exceeding its authority by extending broad immunity to the Sacklers when they themselves are not filing for bankruptcy.

Critics have accused what one member of Congress called America’s “most evil family” of seeking to buy a way out of responsibility without admitting the role Purdue Pharma played in creating the opioid epidemic with a marketing campaign. unprecedented to sell OxyContin built. about manipulated data and false claims that federal drug agents called “heroin pills” had a low risk of causing addiction. Purdue used its wealth to influence politicians and regulators to keep the floodgates open even as evidence of a looming epidemic grew.

Attorneys for states and municipalities say the billions of dollars held by the Sacklers under the plan would go a long way toward providing social services to children who were orphaned or forced into foster care by opioid addiction. from their parents, and would offset the financial burden caused by the epidemic on health care and the police.

Documents released by a congressional committee last month show the family is worth about $ 11 billion. Sackler’s assets include nearly $ 1 billion in cash and billions more in trusts. Its vast holdings also include art and property.

Attorneys for the family say the $ 4.3 billion payment is fair because it is less than what the Sacklers made with OxyContin after taxes. It’s unclear where the balance of the family’s wealth came from given that drugs were Purdue’s main source of earnings. The attorneys who sued the Sacklers have suggested that a large part of the difference was due to investment earnings from OxyContin’s earnings and should therefore be counted as earnings from the drug.

Healey is in the middle of an investigation into the role played by individual family members after identifying eight of them who she said knew OxyContin was causing overdose deaths but continued to drive sales of the drug. Among them is Dr. Richard Sackler, who as Purdue’s chief marketing officer increased sales of OxyContin and described people who overdosed on the drug as criminals to blame for their own condition.

While the Sacklers have expressed regret over the crisis, they have continued to deny wrongdoing. Kathe Sackler, a former Purdue board member, came under fire at a congressional hearing in December when she said that while “my heart breaks for parents who have lost their children,” the company was not at fault.

“There is nothing I can find that I would have done otherwise,” he said.

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