Healthcare

Senate Democrats urge DOJ to open criminal investigation into Sackler family members

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A group of Senate Democrats is urging the Department of Justice to open an investigation into whether members of the Sackler family personally engaged in criminal conduct in connection with Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid epidemic. 

In a letter led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), the Democrats have asked Attorney General Merrick Garland to consider possible criminal charges for Sackler family members on top of the department’s previously resolved civil and criminal investigations into Purdue.

“Real justice in this case means holding individual lawbreakers criminally accountable,” the Democrats wrote.

In 2020, the Justice Department under former President Trump announced an $8 billion settlement with Purdue Pharma to resolve a federal probe of its marketing practices for opioids, though the company had already declared bankruptcy and was only required to pay the government $225 million. 

The Sacklers owned Purdue, which manufactured the powerful opioid OxyContin. The drug is widely seen as one of the spurs of an opioid epidemic that has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States.

As part of the settlement, Purdue also pleaded guilty to three felonies for its sale and marketing of OxyContin. As part of the settlement, the Sackler family resolved to give up control of the company, but did not face any criminal charges. They also only paid $225 million, while secretly siphoning more than $10 billion from the company to themselves, according to an investigation by New York Attorney General Letita James.   

The senators noted that as part of the settlement, DOJ reserved the right to bring criminal charges against individuals.

“To that end, we write to encourage the Department to review the information in its possession and investigate whether members of the Sackler family engaged in criminal conduct in connection with Purdue’s admitted criminal wrongdoing, before any relevant statutes of limitations expire,” the senators wrote.

The Sacklers have long maintained that they and their company were blameless when it comes to the opioid crisis because OxyContin was fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration. 

The Hill has reached out to representatives of the family, as well as the DOJ.

“That the Department has taken steps to hold Purdue criminally accountable for its actions, but not the Sacklers, suggests dissimilar treatment for similar—or even the same—unlawful conduct,” the senators wrote.

Tags Donald Trump Merrick Garland Opioids OxyContin Purdue Pharma Sackler family

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