New York state is suing members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharmaceuticals, for their role in the nation’s opioids crisis, according to The Guardian. The move follows the company’s $270 million payment to Oklahoma, as a settlement for the state’s lawsuit over their marketing of Oxycontin.
The suit accuses manufacturers of denying the addictiveness and other dangers of the drug, distributors of working with pharmacies to circumvent limits on painkiller orders, and both groups of lying to state regulators, “in order to profiteer from the plague they knew would be unleashed.”
Eight members of the Sackler family were added to an existing suit against Purdue. Five other opioid production companies, and four distribution companies, were also added. The state is seeking as much as tens of millions in payments for damages, and a fund dedicated to addressing opioid addiction.
Many states, counties, and cities have already claimed that the company’s marketing of opioids led directly to a growing crisis of addiction among Americans. More than 130 Americans die each day from opioid overdoses. New York has an average of nine opioid-related deaths each day.
Oklahoma’s attorney general opted to accept the settlement in part due to indications that Purdue may declare bankruptcy due to the number of lawsuits over Oxycontin. The settlement was also by far the largest the company has paid to settle litigation over its marketing, which included claims that Oxycontin was less addictive than other opioid medications.
In a first, that payment also included $75 million directly from the Sackler family. According to the Sacklers, this money was a “voluntary pledge” to build an addiction treatment center in Oklahoma, and did not represent an admission of guilt.
One reason that lawsuits against Purdue may continue to gain traction is the company’s 2007 guilty plea in a criminal case over aggressive opioid marketing. Purdue was fined $600 million and admitted that it trained sales representatives to portray Oxycontin as a less addictive alternative to other opioids.
This is an extensive lawsuit that leaves no stone unturned,” according to New York attorney general Letitia James. She also called the Sacklers “the masterminds behind this crisis.”
A spokesperson for the Sacklers said:
“Expanding this baseless lawsuit to include former directors of Purdue Pharma is a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis. We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them.”