The owners of Purdue Pharma – the Sacklers – are heading to court. Make that plural – courts, many courts. Actions are mounting against them in legal circles around the country. They are charging members of the Sackler family with starting the opioid epidemic and then fanning the flames. It all has to do with a substance they introduced into the mass market. OxyContin.
To review…Purdue Pharma purported OxyContin was a breakthrough in the treatment of severe pain. It offered superior efficacy and safety. Its time-release formula meant that doses lasted 12 hours. What’s more, this miracle narcotic was not addictive. Users could take high and higher doses over an extended period of time without concern.
The Sacklers sensed they had a winner in OxyContin. They launched an aggressive promotional campaign with elaborate, interlocking strategies. It targeted prescribing physicians, other pharma firms as partners and their own salesforce to blanket the market. And it worked. Sales soared and, within the first five years, reached about $1.1 billion by 2001.
On the consumer end, the medication did not act as advertised. The more that people took the drug, the more they wanted. OxyContin became one of the most abused pharmaceutical drugs in this country. Addiction to it skyrocketed and opened the floodgates for other opioids alone or in combination, such as heroin and fentanyl. Overdoses and deaths followed. Since OxyContin came on the market, more than 200,000 users died in the U.S. from taking prescription opioids.
In light of the crisis they helped to sow, Purdue Pharma had an idea. Did they intervene to stop this scourge? No, they saw an opportunity to profit from it. They prepared a plan to develop a line of treatments for opioid addiction. However, they did not move forward on it. The authorities did.
The Landscape of Litigation
The first major legal foray against the Sacklers kicked off in 2007 with a challenge to claims made about OxyContin. Purdue Pharma admitted guilt to a felony and paid more than $643 million in civil and criminal penalties. Many more lawsuits followed. And they keep coming. At the time of this writing, there are 2,000 and counting. Oklahoma was first in line to go to trial, the proceedings of which were to be televised; however, weeks before the start date, the case settled and the Sacklers agreed to pay $270 million in damages. Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut and many others await hearings. So too does a basket of 1,600 cases consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland, Ohio.
Most recently, New Jersey joined in. It entered the fray at the end of May 2019. The lawsuit names eight member of the Sackler family; and it includes three counts of violating the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and one of violating the False Claims Act. The complaint charges them with misrepresenting the benefits and risks of OxyContin, notably the potential for addiction. The language states the strategy designed by those being brought up on charges “changed the way the medical profession viewed opioid prescribing.”
New Jersey and its brethren states and cities throughout the country are underscoring the seriousness of the opioid problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 72,200 deaths by drug overdose occurred in the U.S. in 2017. That rate is 10 percent higher than the year before. Of the total, 50,000 involved opioids.
Another Call to Action
Treatment for opioid addiction can save lives. In New Jersey, Sunrise House helps individuals struggling with alcohol and drug abuse. This rehab, located in Sussex County, offers a continuum of care. From detox to inpatient and outpatient services, clients receive customized treatment plans keyed to their needs. The facility, which bears the seal of approval from The Joint Commission, offers clients a 90-day promise. It guarantees that those who successfully complete the full program will achieve or maintain sobriety. If not, they can return for a complimentary 30 days of treatment.
Visit the Sunrise House admissions page to see how easy it is to start on the road to recovery. Help is readily available for you or a loved one. In the meantime, New Jersey is doing its part to help stem the opioid crisis and bring those responsible for it to justice.