One of America's richest families is accused of profiting from the nation's opioid crisis

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 1/29/2019, 7:51 a.m.
A court ruling Monday in Massachusetts will expose details about one of America's richest families and their connection to the ...
The Sacklers and members of their company Purdue Pharma have been named in a lawsuit that accuses them of profiting from the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin, claims denied by attorneys for the family and Purdue.

By Tony Marco, CNN

(CNN) -- A court ruling Monday in Massachusetts will expose details about one of America's richest families and their connection to the nation's opioid crisis.

The Sacklers and members of their company Purdue Pharma have been named in a lawsuit that accuses them of profiting from the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin, claims denied by attorneys for the family and Purdue.

The suit had been heavily redacted, but on Monday, Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders ruled that the unredacted amended complaint must be publicly released by February 1.

In the order, Sanders calls the defense's protests "hardly compelling" enough to keep the information secret, adding that it is not intensely personal or private.

The redacted pages "appear to be discussions of tactics that could be used to promote the sales of OxyContin (particularly in higher doses), to encourage doctors to prescribe the drug over longer periods of time, and to circumvent safeguards put in place to stop illegal prescriptions," Sanders says in the court filing.

"For many years, Purdue, its executives, and members of the Sackler family have tried to shift the blame and hide their role in creating the opioid epidemic. We are grateful to the court for lifting the impoundment on our complaint so that the public and families so deeply impacted by this crisis can see the allegations of the misconduct that has harmed so many," Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement to CNN on Monday.

The Purdue Pharmaceuticals legal team plans to seek a stay in the case pending an appellate review of the judge's order, Purdue spokesperson Robert Josephson said Monday.

In a previous statement to CNN, Purdue Pharma said, "To distract from these omissions of fact and the other numerous deficiencies of its claims, the attorney general has cherry-picked from among tens of millions of emails and other business documents produced by Purdue."

The Sackler family's connection

The Sackler family, which Forbes says is worth approximately $13 billion, is well known for its philanthropy around the world. The family name is on museums and galleries around the world, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Sackler Museum in Beijing and the Royal Academy in London. Their company Purdue Pharma sells OxyContin and has been criticized in the past for its aggressive marketing of the opioid painkiller.

There have been previous lawsuits against the company, including one multistate federal suit in 2007 settled for $600 million as part of a plea deal. The federal accusation was "misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers," referring to how addictive OxyContin is. The Sackler family was not specifically attached to those suits.

Healey filed the complaint, which names eight members of the Sackler family, alleging they knew OxyContin was causing overdoses and deaths but continued to promote the drug. Nine other people currently or formerly associated with the company are also named in the suit. CNN has reached out to the attorneys for all the defendants for comment, but did not immediately hear back.