Ex-Purdue Pharma chair says he, family and company not responsible for opioid crisis

Ex-Purdue Pharma chair says he, family and company not responsible for opioid crisis
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The former board chair and president of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma on Wednesday denied that he, his family members or the company had any responsibility for the opioid crisis that has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans over the past two decades. 

Richard Sackler’s refusal to accept responsibility came during testimony in Purdue’s federal bankruptcy hearing in White Plains, N.Y., according to The Associated Press

When asked whether he, his family or the company contributed to the opioid deaths across the country through the aggressive sale and promotion of Oxycontin, Sackler, whose father and uncles started the company 70 years ago, responded the same way each time. 

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“No,” he said, according to the AP. 

The 76-year-old, who was among those who pushed sale of OxyContin in the late 1990s, participated in more than three hours of questioning via videoconference Wednesday, with most questions coming from Maryland Assistant Attorney General Brian Edmunds. 

When asked by Edmunds whether he was aware of how many people died from opioid use from 2005 to 2017, Sackler responded, “I don’t know,” the AP reported. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 500,000 people died from an overdose involving opioids from 1999 to 2019. 

The AP reported that U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Drain said Wednesday that final arguments in the bankruptcy trial were likely to begin Monday, with a final decision expected later next week. 

Several lawsuits have been filed against Purdue and other pharmaceutical companies over their roles in selling opioids that contributed to the crisis, with many groups seeking compensation for individual victims and their families. 

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Purdue declared bankruptcy in 2019 in an attempt to settle roughly 3,000 lawsuits from states, tribes and other local entities related to its opioid marketing tactics. 

The Sackler family has proposed a $4.5 billion settlement given in the form of cash and control of charitable funds over time. 

However, Richard Sackler has said the family would not agree to a settlement unless it protects the family against any future lawsuits states and other groups could attempt to bring against Purdue and the family. 

Both the Justice Department’s U.S. Trustee Program and the the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Audrey Strauss objected to the proposed settlement late last month, arguing that it would inappropriately shield Sackler family members from future claims related to the opioid crisis. 

The Justice Department also said at the time that the plan violated the "constitutional right to due process" for others with potential legal complaints against the Sackler family.

Updated 5:07 p.m.