Story at a glance

  • The Sackler family, which owns OxyContin distributor Purdue Pharma, has launched a new website to push back on claims it is responsible for the opioid crisis.
  • The website asserts that lawyers and the media have invented a “false narrative” surrounding the family’s involvement.
  • Purdue Pharma has pleaded guilty to federal crimes twice and settled civil lawsuits costing billions of dollars linked to the opioid epidemic.

Members of the Sackler family, who own drug giant Purdue Pharma, have created a website in which they deny responsibility for the opioid epidemic and push back on “false narratives” they say were promoted by lawyers and the media, despite Purdue Pharma settling lawsuits in the billions and twice pleading guilty of federal crimes. 

On the new website Judge for Yourselves, the family asserts they are victims of a smear campaign by those attempting to profit from a “strategically invented false narrative” that the company’s prescription painkiller OxyContin fueled the opioid epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioid overdose deaths more than quadrupled from 1999 to 2019. 

The website states that the Sackler family members involved with Purdue “acted lawfully and ethically” and the family and the company’s drug OxyContin “unexpectedly became part of the opioid crisis.” 

It further asserts that “for years, the news media and plaintiffs’ lawyers have falsely blamed Purdue, OxyContin and the Sackler family for causing the opioid epidemic based on hyperbolic and sensationalized attacks that are unsupported by actual evidence” through “false claims” and “misleading comments.”


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Last month, HBO released "Crime of the Century," a two-part documentary examining the role Big Pharma, including Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, played in the inception of and fueling the opioid crisis.

President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis in 2017 found that Purdue Pharma’s “aggressive promotion” of OxyContin was a leading factor in fueling the opioid epidemic.

In 2019, the National Bureau of Economic Research released a study surrounding the effect OxyContin had on the opioid crisis and overdose deaths, concluding that “the introduction and marketing of OxyContin explain a substantial share of overdose deaths over the last two decades.”

The website, created by the Sackler family, argues that this study is flawed, stating it has an unsupported premise, is ignorant of other possible factors, and asserts it used unreliable data. 

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty twice to federal crimes, once in 2007 and again last year, stemming from its marketing of OxyContin to the public with false assertions, including that it was less addictive than other painkillers.


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The publicity pushback campaign within the website coincides with recent accusations that the Sackler family is abusing bankruptcy litigation to avoid handing over billions of dollars. 

While denying wrongdoing, the site states the family will relinquish the money from settlements because they do “not want funds available for a public benefit to be consumed by attorneys’ fees.”

A judge signed off last week on a bankruptcy settlement that requires the Sackler family to pay roughly $4.3 billion to settle thousands of civil lawsuits, relinquish control of the company and turn it into a nonprofit. 

However, the proposal shields the Sackler family from new civil lawsuits, but not criminal prosecution, potentially saving them billions of dollars of opioid profits from being dispersed to other potential victims and complainants, despite the family not having declared bankruptcy.


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Published on Jun 02, 2021