North Carolina sues Sackler family over opioid epidemic

North Carolina sues Sackler family over opioid epidemic
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North Carolina's attorney general has filed a new lawsuit accusing members of the Sackler family of deliberately ignoring the harms of OxyContin in order to boost the prescription painkiller's sales as well as profits for themselves.

In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein (D) accused eight members of the Sackler family of being the driving forces behind Purdue Pharma and its work to deceptively market and sell OxyContin.

“We have been negotiating with Purdue and the Sacklers for months, but so far, the Sacklers have not been willing to put meaningful skin in the game to help clean up the mess they’ve helped create,” Stein said in a statement.

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Purdue manufactures OxyContin, the drug widely blamed for helping drive the country’s opioid crisis. The company is facing lawsuits from virtually every state in the country, as well as thousands of cities, counties, Native American tribes and others seeking restitution for the opioid epidemic.

The company filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday night as part of a proposed settlement agreement, but North Carolina is one of 24 states, plus the District of Columbia, that has refused to settle.

The states believe the settlement is not nearly hard enough on the Sacklers and Purdue, especially since neither the family nor the company would be required to admit any wrongdoing. They want to pursue the Sacklers for a full accounting.

The lawsuit accuses the Sacklers of siphoning billions of dollars in profits from Purdue to enrich themselves. In fact, Purdue’s bankruptcy announcement came just 48 hours after the New York attorney general’s office uncovered nearly $1 billion in wire transfers from Purdue to Swiss bank accounts owned by the Sacklers.

According to the lawsuit, the Sacklers pushed salespeople to spread misinformation and downplay OxyContin’s addictiveness, including by withholding information about the dangers associated with opioids.

Stein also accused the family members of  targeting seniors, veterans and other vulnerable populations to increase sales.

“On behalf of the tens of thousands of sick people in North Carolina who desperately need treatment, I am suing the Sacklers personally. The Sacklers must be held accountable. They need to write a check,” Stein said.

The Sacklers are hoping that Purdue’s bankruptcy will shield them from lawsuits like the one filed by Stein, but it’s not clear if the bankruptcy judge will allow it.