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Sacklers accused of personally directing deceptive OxyContin sales tactics

Published on 17/01/19 at 10:03am

Members of the billionaire Sackler dynasty personally directed efforts to mislead doctors and patients as to the dangers of the powerful opioid painkiller OxyContin, thus creating the opioid crisis, according to a complaint filed by Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey.

“Purdue Pharma created the [opioid] epidemic and profited from it through a web of illegal deceit,” the lawsuit claims. “Even when Purdue knew people in Massachusetts were addicted and dying, Purdue treated doctors and their patients as targets to sell more drugs.  At the top of Purdue, a small group of executives led the deception and pocketed millions of dollars.”

Purdue Pharma, led by CEO Richard Sackler and other members of the secretive Sackler dynasty, “took advantage of addiction to make money.” In doing so, the company created a “tragedy by deceiving doctors and patients about their dangerous drugs,” according to the document filed on the 15 January 2019.

Meanwhile, “Purdue used face-to-face sales visits to conceal its deception by trying to avoid witnesses or a paper trail.  When one sales rep made the mistake of writing down in an email her sales pitch to a doctor, Purdue’s Vice President of Sales Russell Gasdia ordered: “Fire her now!”  Purdue’s leaders did not want a record of their behavior because they knew they were breaking the law,” the lawsuit declares.

Later, in an attempt to avoid criticism, Richard Sackler sought to “blame and stigmatize people who become addicted to opioids” as he wrote in a confidential email: “we have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible. They are the culprits and the problem.  They are reckless criminals”

“Richard followed that strategy for the rest of his career: collect millions from selling addictive drugs, and blame the terrible consequences on the people who became addicted.  By their misconduct, the Sacklers have hammered Massachusetts families in every way possible.  And the stigma they used as a weapon made the crisis worse,” the filing claims.

Their motivation was the pursuit of cold, hard cash: “Most of all, the Sacklers cared about money.  Millions of dollars were not enough. They wanted billions. They cared more about money than about patients, or their employees, or the truth.”

In pursuit of this aim, sales representatives were instructed to lie: “A sales representative told a reporter: “We were directed to lie. Why mince words about it?”   

Above all, the deceptive strategies pursued by Purdue Pharma were directly influenced by Richard Sackler and other members of the controlling family. As recorded in the filing: “The Sacklers’ micromanagement was so intrusive that staff begged for relief.  The VP of Sales and Marketing wrote to the CEO: ‘Anything you can do to reduce the direct contact of Richard into the organization is appreciated.’”

Louis Goss

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