OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges

Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in Stamford, Conn., on Oct. 21. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(CN) — Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal criminal charges related to the OxyContin manufacturer’s role in the nation’s deadly opioid crisis. 

Purdue’s board chairman, Steve Miller, pleaded guilty to three charges on behalf of the pharmaceutical giant during a virtual hearing in Newark, New Jersey, on Tuesday.

In admitting guilt to these charges, Purdue is formally taking responsibility for its contributions to the opioid epidemic, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans. 

The charges include two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

The company admitted during the hearing that it had hindered the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to combat the opioid crisis in many ways, including, by misleading the federal law enforcement agency about the existence of an effective program to prevent prescription drugs from being diverted to the black market.

U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, presided over the hearing and will schedule sentencing at a later date. 

Purdue admitted to paying doctors in efforts to persuade them to write more prescriptions for the company’s painkillers and paying an electronic medical records company to send doctors information that further encouraged the prescription of opioids to patients. 

The pleas that Miller entered on Tuesday are part of a criminal and civil settlement reached in October between the company and the U.S. Department of Justice, under which the company owes $8.34 billion in penalties.

Perdue’s pending bankruptcy, however, could allow it to receive billions in credits as a public benefit company, reducing the true amount of value it could lose under the settlement.

“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,” a Purdue spokesperson said in a statement.

The Sackler family, who owns the company, will pay $225 million to the federal government under last month’s agreement to settle civil claims. 

Neither Tuesday’s plea nor the settlement resulted in any member of the ultrawealthy Sackler family facing criminal charges. 

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