MANHATTAN (CN) – A year after suing their company Purdue Pharma and others for $500 million, New York City formally accused the wealthy Sackler family of participating in a decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the dangers of OxyContin.
“It is important to note that the Sacklers personally derived billions of dollars of profits from Purdue Pharma’s sale of opioids since the 1980s,” New York City Corporation Counsel Zachary Carter said in a statement on Wednesday.
“They did so through a complex, worldwide group of associated companies, all of which are owned and controlled, directly or indirectly, through family trusts and holding companies,” he added.
In January 2018, the city filed a complaint against Purdue Pharma and retailers CVS, Walmart, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Anda, alleging the companies conspired to downplay the addictiveness of opioids and allowed them to be sold on the black market.
The city added eight members of the Sackler dynasty in an addendum to that complaint Wednesday, along with a half-dozen companies associated with their pharmaceutical empire. They include companies associated with Rhodes Technologies, the P.F. Laboratories, and the Raymond Sackler Trust.
According to that document, the Sackler family knew about the risks before the turn of the millennium.
“In summer of 1999, a Purdue sales representative wrote to the president of Purdue reporting widespread abuse of OxyContin,” the 59-page addendum states. “As a result of that memo, a secretary at Purdue, Maureen Sara, was tasked with doing research on the internet to learn about the nature and scope of the abuse, specifically to learn about how recreational drug users were misusing OxyContin.”
As the millennium drew to a close, Sara wrote up a memo summarizing how users could remove the coating of the pills to crush them, cook them, and snort or shoot them.
“Ms. Sara sent the memo containing the details of OxyContin abuse by drug users not only to the president of Purdue and to its general counsel, but also to Purdue's then-medical director, and directly to members of the Sackler families involved in the management of the company, including Richard Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, and Kathe Sackler,” the addendum states, referring to the scions of Purdue’s co-owners: brothers Raymond and Mortimer Sackler.
The city notes that the warning signs did not relent over the next decade.
“From 2001 to 2007, Purdue was investigated by 26 states and the U.S. Department of Justice,” the addendum states.
The city said that all of the Sacklers who served as executive officers of Purdue resigned in 2003, on the advice of the family’s legal counsel Stuart Baker, whom the city also added as a defendant.
Like much of the rest of the country, New York City continues to be ravaged by the opioid epidemic. Officials estimate that more than 1,000 died here of an opioid-related drug overdose in 2016, the highest year on record, and more New Yorkers died of opioid overdoses the next year than from car accidents and homicides combined.
Allegations about the Sackler dynasty’s ties to the opioid epidemic cast a shroud over their philanthropy to one of New York City’s most treasured cultural institutions: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a wing named after the family housing the Ancient Egyptian Temple of Dendur.
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