Bipartisan Outrage Towards Sackler Family and Purdue Pharma for Lack of Accountability in Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, held a hearing to examine the role of Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family in fueling the nationwide opioid epidemic for decades by pushing Purdue executives to flood the market with the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin.
Chairwoman Maloney issued the following statement at the end of hearing:
“You have played a critical, active role in sparking and fueling the opioid epidemic. You approved and monitored dangerous marketing plans. You directed their sales representatives to focus on the highest-volume prescribers and the strongest versions of OxyContin. You targeted vulnerable populations with misleading messages.
“You have the ability now to mitigate at least some of the damage you caused. Stop hiding and offshoring your assets, stop nickel and diming the negotiators, make a massive financial contribution that leaves no doubt about your commitment, and finally acknowledge your wrongdoing. The families whose lives you have ruined deserve at least that much.”
Witnesses included David Sackler, former Member of the Board of Directors (2012 to 2018); Dr. Kathe Sackler, former Vice President and Member of the Board of Directors (1990 to 2018); and Craig Landau, President and CEO of Purdue Pharma.
Members expressed bipartisan outrage for the lack of accountability for the role of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma in fueling the opioid epidemic.
When asked by Chairwoman Maloney whether she would apologize for her role in the opioid crisis, Dr. Kathe Sackler said: “There is nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then.”
Rep. Kelly Armstrong said, “It is beyond the pale of believability to think that after settling with the federal government in 2007, that you could honestly say—watching the sale of your own company’s drugs—that you didn’t know a problem was coming down the pike, and to say that is just apprised believability and is absolutely abhorrent and appalling to the victims of opioid addiction.”
Patients and families provided emotional stories about how the opioid epidemic has affected their lives.
For example, Alexis Pleus from Binghamton, New York, described how her high-school aged son was prescribed OxyContin after a knee injury and was told to take pills every four hours for months as he worked through physical therapy. She explained that no one told her or her son that it might not be easy to stop using OxyContin or about the risks of addiction, and her son died from an overdose. She stated: “The damage and the pain and the grief is life long, and Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers need to be held accountable for what they’ve done to our family and countless other families.”
Members questioned the Sackler family on the withdrawal of billions of dollars from Purdue Pharma to avoid compensating affected families.
Chairwoman Maloney asked David Sackler about an email he wrote in 2007 – one week after Purdue settled with DOJ on charges of misbranding and agreed to pay $600 million in fines – that said: “We’re rich? For How long? Until which suits get through to the family?”
Chairwoman Maloney told David Sackler: “I think it’s clear your family has tried to fraudulently shield money for your own personal benefit. I think it’s appalling. Those profits, in my opinion, should be clawed back. You and your family should compensate the American public for the harm that you caused and you should be held fully accountable for your actions.”
Ranking Member James Comer similarly told Mr. Sackler: “I am just sick to see what it appears to me a family and a company that is going to use the bankruptcy process to get out of this and to continue to be one of the wealthiest families in America. It is unacceptable.”
Members pressed the Sackler family to provide greater transparency into their involvement in the management of Purdue Pharma and their financial arrangements.
In his sworn testimony, David Sackler claimed: “We want the American people to know what actually happened at Purdue.”
To this end, Rep. Jamie Raskin pressed David Sackler to commit to contributing the Sackler family’s documents to the public document repository that will be created as a result of Department of Justice settlement announced in October.
In addition, Chairwoman Maloney asked David Sackler to produce to the Committee an accounting of all shell companies that he and his family controls, as well as how much of the Sackler family’s wealth is being held in foreign bank accounts.