Herring sues Sackler Family for role in opioid crisis
Attorney General Mark Herring has filed suit against members of the Sackler Family, owners of Purdue Pharma, for their role in creating and perpetuating the opioid crisis, and for fraudulently taking billions of dollars from Purdue Pharma in an attempt to put money beyond the reach of the Commonwealth of Virginia and other parties who may be entitled to damages.
“For decades, the Sackler Family has made a fortune from the sales of drugs that they knew were dangerous, deadly, and addictive,” said Herring. “While the Sackler Family has lived a life of unimaginable wealth and comfort, families across Virginia and around the country have been devastated by an opioid crisis that was fueled by lies and deceit by Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers. To make matters worse, we believe the Sacklers siphoned billions from the company as part of a scheme to ensure they got to keep their profits. The Sackler Family must be held accountable for their role in the heartbreak and loss of life they and their company and products have caused.”
Herring has filed an amended complaint in Tazewell County Circuit Court as part of his ongoing lawsuit against Purdue Pharma that specifically names Richard, Jonathan, Kathe, and Mortimer Sackler as defendants. The suit states that, despite the fact that “the Sacklers were unquestionably on notice as to the risks associated with opioids and the prior problems with Purdue’s opioid sales and marketing practices,” the family nevertheless “oversaw, directed, and were informed in great detail about Purdue’s opioid sales and marketing, with Richard Sackler taking a particularly active and aggressive role in directing, controlling, and participating in those functions and activities.”
The complaint includes a new claim of an individual violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by Richard Sackler, who served Purdue in various capacities from 1990 to 2018, including on its board of directors, as its board co-chair, as its president, and as its head of research and development. The complaint states that “Richard Sackler acted willfully in directing, controlling, approving, or participating in” the allegedly unlawful acts committed by the company, including violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
Herring also cites Richard Sackler’s victim-blaming response to the opioid crises, stating that “Richard Sackler frequently expressed contempt for addicts in derisive, callous, and insulting comments promoting false misconceptions about addiction. He believed that addicts alone were solely to blame for their addiction and for the growing opioid epidemic, that they wanted to be addicted, that they deserved their plight, and that they merited no sympathy or treatment, just harsh condemnation and punishment.”
The complaint also adds a new claim of “fraudulent conveyance” against the company and Richard, Jonathan, Kathe, and Mortimer Sackler. The complaint states that between 2008 and 2018, the Sackler family transferred at least $4 billion from Purdue to themselves. The complaint states that “in authorizing these transfers, the Sacklers sought to drain Purdue of cash and to place these funds beyond the reach of Purdue’s creditors and claimants to whom Purdue faced liabilities due to its deceptive and misleading opioid sales and marketing practices.”
It further states that “the Sacklers authorized these transfers with fraudulent intent, for no consideration, and for the purpose of rendering the funds inaccessible to the Commonwealth and other parties with valid claims against Purdue.”
The lawsuit against the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma asks the court to put an end to lies by Purdue and the Sackler family about their opioids, to order appropriate monetary relief, to reverse any unlawful transactions that were made in an attempt to shield money, and to ensure that such funds remain accessible to the Commonwealth and plaintiffs who may be entitled to damages.
Since 2007, 8,000 Virginians have died from an opioid overdose, including 5,000 from a prescription opioid overdose. Between 2008 and 2017, Purdue promoted and sold an estimated $18.7 billion in opioids resulting in 2,157,959 prescriptions filled in Virginia and 149,658,236 pills and patches making their way into communities across the Commonwealth. For the majority of this ten-year period, the number of pills and patches was nearly double the population of the state.
In June 2018, Herring filed suit against Purdue Pharma for its role in creating and prolonging the opioid crisis through false claims about the purported safety, efficacy, and benefits of its opioids, including OxyContin. The suit details the scale of the operation, the lies Purdue Pharma told about the dangers of their drugs, and the sales and marketing tactics used by Purdue to push as many opioid prescriptions as possible.
The heroin and prescription opioid epidemic has been a top priority for Herring. He and his team continue to attack the problem with a multifaceted approach that includes enforcement, education, prevention, and legislation to encourage reporting of overdoses in progress, expand the availability of naloxone, and expand access to the Prescription Monitoring Program. He has supported federal efforts to improve the availability of treatment and recovery resources and made prescription drug disposal kits available across the Commonwealth.
Herring recently outlined his recommended next steps for combating the crisis, focusing on law enforcement initiatives, support from the medical community, and recovery, treatment, prevention and education. He and his team also continue to participate in a multistate investigation into the practices of additional drug manufacturers and distributors to determine what role they may have played in creating or prolonging the crisis and what accountability they should face.
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