OxyContin maker Purdue pleads guilty to criminal charges

OxyContin maker Purdue pleads guilty to criminal charges
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OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges in connection with the opioid crisis Tuesday.

The plea deal was first announced in October as part of a larger $8 billion settlement with the federal government. Board chairman Steve Miller pleaded guilty on behalf of the company to two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute, as well as one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

In the guilty plea on behalf of Purdue, Miller conceded that the company had falsely represented itself to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as having a program in place to prevent drugs from being diverted for abuse. The company also acknowledged misleading the DEA to increase manufacturing quotas and to paying kickbacks to incentivize doctors to write more prescriptions, the Justice Department said.

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Miller also admitted that Purdue paid an electronic medical records firm to provide doctors with information that would make them more likely to prescribe opioids.

"Having our plea accepted in federal court, and taking responsibility for past misconduct, is an essential step to preserve billions of dollars of value for creditors and advance our goal of providing financial resources and lifesaving medicines to address the opioid crisis,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement.

"We continue to work tirelessly to build additional support for a proposed bankruptcy settlement, which would direct the overwhelming majority of the settlement funds to state, local and tribal governments for the purpose of abating the opioid crisis,” the spokesperson added.

The plea agreement will also involve the dissolution of the company. Members of the Sackler family, which owned and founded the company, may still face separate criminal charges or civil actions. Critics have warned that until criminal charges are brought against individuals, justice will not be served for the opioid crisis, which has contributed to more than 470,000 deaths in America, The Associated Press reported.

“Until we [charge individual people] and we stop accusing brick and mortar and not individuals, nothing will change,”  Cynthia Munger, whose son is in recovery for OxyContin addiction, told the AP.

Updated at 4:33 p.m.