Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Victims of opioid crisis, loved ones confront Purdue Pharma, Sacklers in court

This photo shows an arrangement of Oxycodone pills in New York on Aug. 29, 2018. (Associated Press photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Story at a glance

  • A U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a settlement Wednesday that will require Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family to pay between $5.5 billion and $6 billion to states and victims affected by the opioid crisis, as well as for opioid treatment and prevention.
  • Victims of the opioid crisis and those who lost loved ones due to it gave impassioned impact statements to Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family during a virtual court hearing on Thursday.
  • Prescription opioid overdose deaths more than quadrupled from 1999 to 2019, killing nearly 247,000 people in the United States.

Victims of the opioid crisis and those who lost loved ones due to it gave impassioned impact statements to Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family during a virtual court hearing on Thursday. 

“Your disease is greed, and you wouldn’t stop making money even when you knew it was morally dreadful,” said Donny Madison, whose son Trent died of a heroin overdose at the age of 22 after becoming addicted to OxyContin, adding, “Money was too good to give up.”  

The hearing comes the day after a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a settlement that will require Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family to pay between $5.5 billion and $6 billion to states and victims affected by the opioid epidemic, as well as for treatment and prevention. 

“The nature of today’s proceedings are unique and important,” Judge Robert Drain said in an opening statement. “The past and ongoing impact of OxyContin on individual people has always been of critical importance in this case.” 

Previously, the victims have not been allowed to address the company or family publicly, with the new settlement’s terms allowing victims affected by the opioid crisis and their family members the chance to vocalize the devastation it caused. 

Three members of the Sackler family attended the virtual hearing. Richard Sackler, the former Purdue Pharma president and board chairman, attended via audio only. His son David Sackler attended via video, as did Theresa Sackler, wife of the late Mortimer D. Sackler, who was one of the founding brothers of Purdue Pharma. 

Over the next roughly two-and-a-half hours, victims and loved ones spoke of the anger, loss and heartache they were personally caused by the opioid crisis. 


America is changing faster than ever! Add Changing America to your Facebook or Twitter feed to stay on top of the news. 


In one particularly haunting moment, Kristy Nelson played the court a recording of the 911 call she placed the day she discovered her son Brian dead from an opioid overdose.  

“You will be judged by greater powers than this justice system and this bankruptcy court,” Ryan Hampton, who is in recovery from an addiction to opioids, told the court. “No matter how much money you pay in a settlement or how many millions your family has spent on their reputation, the legacy of the Sackler family can never be changed. You will be remembered as what you are — for destroying generations of promise.”  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription opioid overdose deaths more than quadrupled from 1999 to 2019, killing nearly 247,000 people in the United States.   

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to federal crimes, once in 2007 and again in 2020, stemming from its marketing of OxyContin to the public with false assertions, including that it was less addictive than other painkillers.    

The Sackler family issued a statement last week, stating, “While the families have acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription medicine that continues to help people suffering from chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities.”   

Changing America has reached out to the Sackler family for comment following Thursday’s hearing.    

Purdue Pharma’s settlement comes just before the distribution of a $26 billion opioid settlement reached by Johnson & Johnson and three distributors. Communities affected by the opioid crisis in that case are expected to begin receiving funds by May 2022. Funds will also be put toward instituting treatment, education and prevention services.  


READ MORE STORIES FROM CHANGING AMERICA 
NEW OXYCONTIN SETTLEMENT TO INCLUDE VICTIM IMPACT STATEMENTS 
THIS IS THE GENDER WAGE GAP IN YOUR STATE 
EDUCATION DEPARTMENT TO ERASE $415 MILLION IN STUDENT LOAN DEBT FOR NEARLY 16,000 BORROWERS 
JUST 20 MINUTES OF DAILY EXERCISE AT 70 COULD STAVE OFF MAJOR HEART DISEASE: STUDY 
SILICON VALLEY TURNS TO TINY HOMES TO END HOMELESSNESS BY 2025