Sackler family pulled more than $10 billion from Purdue as opioid crisis raged

by Editorial Team

More than $10 billion flowed from OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma to the wealthy Sackler family over the course of a decade as the opioid crisis roiled the nation, a new audit revealed.

The family pulled $10.7 billion from its pharmaceutical empire to trusts and holding companies it controlled from 2008 into 2018, according to an audit of Purdue’s finances filed in bankruptcy court Monday evening.

That’s more than eight times the roughly $1.3 billion the Sacklers received from Purdue in the preceding 13 years going back to 1995, when the company’s addictive OxyContin painkiller was introduced, the audit found.

The details of the Sacklers’ financial relationship with Purdue come as the company faces thousands of lawsuits accusing it of fueling the opioid crisis by pushing addictive drugs and playing down their risks.

Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection in September to put the lawsuits on hold while it tries to drum up support for a settlement the company values at $10 billion.

About $4.6 billion of the money Purdue paid out from 2008 through 2017 went toward taxes, according to the audit, while about $4.1 billion went to the Sacklers and about $1.5 billion benefited affiliated companies. The audit, prepared by the consulting firm AlixPartners, also noted about $409 million in “non-cash distributions.”

Close to half the money — about $4.7 billion — was paid out in the three years after Purdue and three executives pleaded guilty to marketing OxyContin as less addictive than other opioids and paid $635 million in penalties. The 2007 settlement was one of the biggest in history for a pharmaceutical company.

The money went to the Sacklers as opioid deaths mounted across the US. The number of drug overdose deaths involving opioids more than doubled from 18,515 in 2007 to 47,600 in 2017, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Purdue reportedly touted the audit as a step toward transparency for the privately held company that should help convince officials to support its settlement proposal.

“Purdue is providing this exceedingly rare level of transparency to help ensure that all claimants, including attorneys general and the communities they represent, can support the settlement structure that would transfer more than $10 billion of value to the American public to address the opioid epidemic and save lives,” the company said in a statement to CNN.

But the report did not go far enough for New York Attorney General Letitia James, whose office has accused Purdue in a lawsuit of deceiving doctors and patients about the dangers of its products.

“The fact that the Sackler family removed more than $10 billion when Purdue’s OxyContin was directly causing countless addictions, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and tearing apart millions of families is further reason that we must see detailed financial records showing how much the Sacklers profited from the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic,” James said in a statement to the New York Times.


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