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Sackler family withdrew $10 billion from Purdue Pharma while legal pressure mounted, audit shows

Published on 17/12/19 at 11:32am

An audit commissioned by Purdue Pharma, to help navigate its bankruptcy, indicates that members of the Sackler family withdrew $10.7 billion from the company and distributed it amongst its trusts and overseas holding companies, according to reporting by The New York Times.

These audit notes centre around the dozen years following the approval of OxyContin by the FDA in 1995. Around this time Purdue Pharma’s pay-outs to the Sacklers totalled $1.3 billion, however between 2008 and 2017 the figure grew to $10 billion. This was during the time where the drug maker was facing more scrutiny as the opioid crisis became a more prominent issue in America.

These payments were often directed to trusts based in off-shore tax havens. This latest news seems to confirm The Wall Street Journal’s reporting of a deposition back in October, which mentioned Purdue sent $12 to $13 billion of its profits to its owners.

The documents of the audit was prepared by a consulting firm that Purdue hired to help it solve its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which they agreed to as part of a deal to settle the OxyContin lawsuits against it.

Purdue Pharma has played a key role in the widespread opioid epidemic. They filed for bankruptcy back in September, as part of a deal to settle thousands of lawsuits alleging the company misled doctors and the public as it promoted opioids like OxyContin. A recently exposed 1997 email chain shows Dr Richard Sackler knew about the potential abuse of opioids by its clients.

Purdue has also agreed to provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, with the Sackler family personally promising to contribute a minimum of $3 billion. It has also converted itself to a public beneficiary trust.

Overdoses have passed car crashes and gun violence to become the leading cause of death for Americans under 55, and the epidemic has killed more people than H.I.V. at the peak of that disease. Nearly 400,000 people have died overall, and it has put a massive strain on local services. The total economic cost of the crisis could range from $50 billion to over $1 trillion.

Conor Kavanagh

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