Why do I feel so much vitriol towards the Sackler family when I have never met them? Could it be that after 450,000 opioid-related deaths, mainly in the US, the family-owned Perdue Pharma Corporation has never accepted responsibility for their part in the opioid crisis? Isn’t owning up to your mistakes, your judgement the honourable thing to do? Or are they so afraid of a public trial that like cornered rats, they are desperate to settle the cases by throwing billions at outstanding class actions and state-wide lawsuits? Of course parting with billions comes with a caveat, that no one will be prosecuted or held personally liable for the deaths.
Oxycontin was unleashed and aggressively promoted by the Sacklers as a safe and reliable drug for pain management. In 1996, When Purdue Pharma introduced Oxycontin, sales grew from $48 million in 1996 to almost $1.1 billion in 2000. The Sackler drug was a highly addictive opioid or, by any other name, synthetic Heroin. By 2004 Oxycontin had become one of the leading drugs of abuse in the United States. Patients prescribed the medication became addicted, and the Sackler family grew rich from their misery. The family has behaved disgracefully and now their company Purdue Pharma has been charged with several felony offences. Would you have these people as members of your country club?
Artlyst has covered this dynasty’s rise and fall for several years now, and, in return, we have had numerous heavy-handed emails from their legal team relating to articles mentioning the family name in connection to Sackler Pain activist/photographer Nan Goldin. The Sackler PR machine has done everything in their power to discredit the internationally renowned photographer, a former Oxycontin addict, labeling her ‘Crazy’, a very Trumpian tactic.
The family hired an army of attorneys and PR Consultants to deflect attention away from the family and place it on the corporation. So far, they have succeeded, and not a single member of the family has been charged or held to account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by OxyContin. Perdue Pharma is quick to point out that they were not the sole manufacturer of opioid drugs, and other companies have not been as vilified as Perdue.
This is where the case stands now:
Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty to several felony offences for its role in the opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma manufactures of OxyContin filed for bankruptcy to create a new corporation that would remove the Sackler family from the board of directors.
Following Purdue Pharma’s guilty plea, global art institutions have removed or have committed to removing the family’s name from their walls and plaques. Those who have previously accepted donations from the Sackler family are calling for amendments that offer sufficient concessions to protect nonprofit organisations that wish to remove the Sackler name from their museum walls or other arts and/or medical establishments.
The Serpentine Sackler Gallery in which The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation donated £5.5 million is now called the Serpentine North Gallery on their website. The Louvre museum in Paris has removed the name Sackler from a major wing devoted to eastern antiquities. The Roundhouse in London turned down a £1m donation from the family and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City announced that it would stop accepting Sackler money.
The bankruptcy plan submitted by Perdue would replace the current board with independent managers appointed by States and local governments, with all profits put toward efforts to fight the opioid crisis. It would also require the Sackler family members to pay $4.275 billion to the thousands of plaintiffs who have brought lawsuits against the company for costs associated with the epidemic. This would hardly put a dent in family money allegedly hidden away in global tax havens. “We are disappointed in this plan,” attorneys have stated, adding that it “falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve.”
SacklerPain Support Group responded:
“Last week, Purdue handed in their long-awaited reorganisation plan. And it is horrendous”.
“This proposed settlement is criminal, shielding the Sacklers’ personal wealth while leaving the American public holding the bag. Purdue Pharma’s reorganisation plan is proof that billionaires have our legal system on a tight leash. This settlement is entirely on the Sacklers terms and is of no benefit to the people and communities they’ve destroyed.
One family, with their lucrative OxyContin business, ignited our country’s opioid overdose crisis. The Sacklers got rich off of our pain and suffering. While the House Oversight Committee publishes damning new Sackler documents, Purdue’s bankruptcy judge chooses corporate preservation and a speedy settlement over the family’s accountability.
The Sacklers’ plan will set a dangerous precedent: providing the profiteers of one of the deadliest public health crises in American history with legal immunity in exchange for their pocket change, doled out over the next decade. It’s justice for sale, not justice for all.
This reorganisation would have our government take the bankrupt carcass of Purdue off the Sacklers’ hands, rerouting future Oxy profits into the settlement pool to pay off the Sacklers’ victims. This is abhorrent—our country exonerates Big Pharma giants for a cut of the profits while using the racist War on Drugs to incarcerate small-time dealers and drug users.”
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said:
“I have expressed disappointment when reacting to Purdue Pharma’s plan in bankruptcy court. Along with 22 other states, Attorney General Tong released the below statement:
“We are disappointed in this plan. While it contains improvements over the proposal that Purdue announced and we rejected in September 2019, it falls short of the accountability that families and survivors deserve.
“Our states investigated Purdue and the Sacklers and filed the lawsuits that took down their criminal enterprise. During the bankruptcy, our States worked together, across party lines, to force Purdue to turn over millions of pages of evidence and to question the Sacklers under oath. We also joined with every state and thousands of cities and towns to ensure that every dollar states recover is dedicated to addressing the opioid crisis.
“Now, the Sacklers and Purdue need to own up to their decades of misconduct and their role in creating this crisis. Purdue needs to amend its plan to provide for:
• A prompt and orderly wind-down of the company that does not excessively entangle it with states and other creditors.
• Additional value from the Sacklers to creditors, including the states, to confront the opioid crisis that is causing so much pain.
• Transparency in the form of robust document disclosures, so the public understands the extent of Purdue’s and the Sacklers’ misconduct to make sure it never happens again.
• Protections for nonprofits over naming rights for charitable gifts.
“Right now, millions of people across the country are desperately suffering from opioid addiction. They need help, and they need it now. We are committed to working with all bankruptcy parties to improve this plan and serve our constituents. Our focus remains on delivering critically needed assistance to the people of our states.”
Attorney General Tong is joined by the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.”