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Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Sunday night, just days after striking a settlement with more than 2,000 local governments over its alleged role in creating and sustaining the deadly opioid crisis.
The filing in New York follows the Sackler family agreeing to relinquish ownership of the lucrative company. The family also agreed to provide $3 billion in cash over several years and future revenue from the sale of OxyContin to assist communities hardest hit by the opioid epidemic.
On Sunday, Purdue’s board of directors approved the settlement, which includes 24 state attorneys general who sued the company, accusing it of fueling the nationwide addiction crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin while downplaying its potential for addiction.
Following Sunday’s bankruptcy filing, the company’s board members said the deal struck with the thousands of state and local governments will provide billions to combat the country’s opioid crisis.
“This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis,” said Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, in a statement to NPR.
“We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible,” he added.
The drugmaker said the value of the settlement is about $10 billion, but 26 states opposed to the deal have contested that estimate, vowing to take the Sackler family to state courts in an attempt to tap into the family’s fortune.
The bankruptcy filing follows a statement by New York’s state attorney general, Letitia James, alleging that investigators discovered nearly $1 billion in wire transfers made by Purdue to Swiss bank accounts — allegedly to shield the family’s wealth from litigation.
Purdue has pointed out that its products were approved by the Federal Drug Administration and that doctors were prescribing them to address patient pain. But the plaintiffs in the suits argue that company officials intensively marketed opioids and downplayed their addictive risks, laying the groundwork for the opioid crisis, which has claimed tens of thousands of lives and is often described as a national emergency.
Purdue Chairman Miller says the company has not admitted any wrongdoing as part of settlement negotiations.
“The resumption of litigation would rapidly diminish all the resources of the company and would be lose-lose-lose all the way around,” he said in the statement. “Whatever people might wish for is not on the table now.”
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NEW YORK (AP) — The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma used Swiss bank accounts to conceal the transfer of millions of dollars from the company to themselves, New York state’s attorney general contends in court papers filed Friday.
New York — asking a judge to enforce subpoenas of companies, banks and advisers to Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family — said it has already documented $1 billion in transfers between those parties.
Those transactions include millions shifted from a Purdue parent company to former board member Mortimer D.A. Sackler, prosecutors said in the papers. Prosecutors say Sackler then redirected substantial amounts to shell companies that own family homes in Manhattan and the Hamptons.
The filing, made in a New York court, follows decisions by that state and others to reject a tentative settlement with Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue, announced this week, arguing it does not do enough to make amends for the company’s and family’s alleged roles in flooding U.S. communities with prescription painkillers.
New York, Massachusetts and others contend that the Sacklers drained more than $4 billion from Purdue since 2007, moving much of it offshore to avoid future claims. In its filing Friday, New York told a state judge that the only way it can determine the full extent of those transfers is if all those it has subpoenaed are forced to provide documents detailing their interactions with the Sackler family.
“It is elementary, however, that how the Sacklers moved and tried to hide their money will be key evidence of the liability of all of the participants,” a lawyer for the attorney general wrote the judge.
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Vail Resorts, a publicly traded operator of ski resorts, announced on Monday it would acquire Peak Resorts for $11 per share, all cash, which is more than double its $5.10 per share closing price, one day prior to the announcement. Peak Resorts operates 17 ski resorts, mostly in the Northeast and Midwest, including Alpine Valley in Ohio and Hunter Mountain in upstate New York.
One major beneficiary of the acquisition: the Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of pain drug OxyContin. According to Peak Resorts’ latest annual proxy from October 2018, its largest shareholder is CAP 1 LLC, a company wholly owned by Sackler brothers Richard and Jonathan. The Sacklers’ nearly 40% ownership stake, which includes preferred stock and stock warrants, is worth about $87 million based on the transaction. Some of the shares are owned by the charitable Sackler Foundation. The Sacklers became investors in Peak Resorts as early as August 2015.
Richard is the former chairman and president of Purdue Pharma. His brother, Jonathan, is a former board member. Nearly every state has filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and its owners, including eight Sackler family members, alleging the company caused a nationwide public health crisis around opioid addiction and opioid overdose deaths. One lawsuit alleges that Purdue Pharma had brought in more than $35 billion in revenues since 1995.
The Sacklers, worth an estimated $13 billion based largely on the value of Purdue Pharma, built their fortune primarily through sales of OxyContin, a highly addictive painkiller that has been called by the medical establishment one of the root causes for the nationwide opioid addiction epidemic. Purdue Pharma owns the patent for OxyContin, and is the only manufacturer of the drug. According to Symphony Health Solutions, a healthcare and pharmaceutical data analytics company, roughly 80% of Purdue Pharma’s sales come from OxyContin. Due to the widespread rise in use of prescription and nonprescription opioids, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017.
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France’s Louvre Museum has erased the Sackler name from its walls, removing any physical trace of its ties to the billionaire family that owns opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma.
The art philanthropist family’s name was quietly removed from a wing dedicated to eastern antiquities over the last few weeks, The New York Times reported.
The wing has been known as the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities since 1997.
A plaque honouring the family’s donations to the museum was also removed from the gallery’s entrance and any mentions of the “Sackler Wing” on the museum’s website have also been deleted.
A representative of the museum said the Sackler’s name was erased because it had exceeded a time limit.
“On 10 October, 2003, the museum board decided to limit the duration period named room to 20 years. [The Sackler] donation is more than 20 years old, the name-period is therefore legally closed and these rooms no longer carry the Sackler name,” the statement said.
The removal follows major museums in Europe and New York announcing they will no longer accept donations from the family.
The family behind Purdue Pharma has been the subject of multiple lawsuits from different states in the US for its alleged role in the country’s opioid epidemic. The transatlantic family are decedents of three Sackler brothers—Raymond, Arthur and Mortimer—who turned their small pharmaceutical firm into a family-controlled enterprise, which eventually became the $3 billion revenue-making Purdue Pharma. The company introduced OxyContin in 1996.
Eighty years later, academic and cultural institutions the world over are deciding whether to reject the Sackler brothers’ children — not because of their religion but because of their actions.
Mortimer and Raymond Sackler are the late patriarchs of a family under fire now for its central role in the opioid addiction crisis, which has led to hundreds of thousands of American deaths. The brothers’ giant pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, is the manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the leading opioids on the market.
Mortimer died in 2010 and Raymond in 2017. Now their widows, along with five of their children and one grandchild, are being sued by three states for allegedly committing a range of fraudulent and deceptive practices in the marketing of OxyContin. Purdue reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma in March.
Before becoming notorious for painkillers, the Sacklers were noted for their philanthropy. So a range of museums and schools are grappling with what to do with the wings, schools and chairs named for them. A couple of Jewish institutions, including Tel Aviv University, face that dilemma as well.
(A third Sackler brother, Arthur, died in 1987, when his brothers bought out his shares — nine years before OxyContin was introduced in 1996. Arthur’s family, which has also given philanthropically, has distanced itself from OxyContin.)
The Sackler brothers were born to Jewish immigrants from Poland and Ukraine.
Arthur Sackler, the oldest, was born in 1913 to Jewish immigrant grocers in Brooklyn. Mortimer and Raymond were born, respectively, in 1916 and 1920. The brothers became psychiatrists: Arthur earned his degree at New York University, the others attended medical school in Scotland.
Arthur lived in Manhattan, Mortimer in London and Switzerland, and Raymond in Greenwich, Connecticut.
They turned a small pharmaceutical company into an empire.
In 1952, the brothers bought Purdue-Frederick, a small New York City drug company, which later became Purdue Pharma. At the time it produced laxatives.
But everything changed in 1996 when the company began to market OxyContin, a prescription painkiller. The drug was marketed as safer than alternatives because of its so-called controlled release, which gradually released the drug into the patient’s bloodstream rather than doing so all at once.
According to a 2017 feature on the family in the New Yorker, the Food and Drug Administration said the drug was less prone to addiction than alternatives because of the controlled release. That was despite Purdue declining to do any clinical studies on the drug’s addictiveness, according to the New Yorker.
OxyContin was prescribed broadly for a wide spectrum of pain, and has made the Sacklers America’s 19th richest family with a combined net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes. As recently as last year, eight Sacklers sat on Purdue’s board.
But recently, as the human toll of the addiction crisis has become evident — in large part, investigators complain, because the dangers of addiction to OxyContin were downplayed or kept hidden — the Sackler name has become synonymous with controversy. Now the number of Sacklers on the board is zero.
Now they are being sued for aggressively and deceptively marketing an addictive drug.
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Family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles with protest messages on them outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Connecticut on Aug. 17, 2018.Jessica Hill / AP file
Two members of Congress accused the World Health Organization on Wednesday of helping Purdue Pharma use the same “propaganda campaign” that fueled the opioid epidemic in the United States to expand drug sales internationally.
In a 38-page report titled “Corrupting Influence, Purdue & the Who,”Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., charged that the WHO has published guidelines for opioid use that parrot Purdue’s claims “that dependence occurs in less than 1 percent of patients, despite no scientific evidence supporting this claim.”
“We believe the similarities between their propaganda campaign in the U.S. and the confusion and deception they have spread through international publications are not a coincidence,” the report states. “We are highly troubled that after igniting the opioid epidemic that cost the United States 50,000 lives in 2017 alone and tens of billions of dollars annually, Purdue is deliberately using the same playbook on an international scale.”
Clark and Rogers called on the WHO to “no longer allow the same companies and the same people who recklessly chose profits over human lives in the United States to inflict the opioid crisis on the rest of the world.”
WHO is an agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health and is based in Switzerland.
“We have received the most recent letter from Congress and are reviewing it point by point,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier wrote in an email after NBC News reached out for a response.
Purdue Pharma spokesman Bob Josephson responded in a statement when NBC News reached out for comment.
“Purdue strongly denies the claims in today’s congressional report, which seeks to vilify the company through baseless allegations,” the statement reads. “Purdue Pharma LP is solely based in the United States with no international operations. The company has never violated any applicable rules or guidelines and no formal complaint or enforcement activity has resulted from Purdue’s financial support or relationship with any third party.”
The report from Clark and Rogers appeared a year after they wrote to Margaret Chan, the WHO’s former director general, and urged her to keep an eye on Purdue Pharma, whose best known product is the powerful painkiller OxyContin, and its network of foreign affiliates, Mundipharma.
“The greed and recklessness of one company and its partners helped spark a public health crisis in the United States,” they wrote.
In particular, Clark and Rogers warned that Mundipharma was engaging in “deceptive and dangerous practices.”
Purdue, in a statement, said it is an “industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology.”
Mundipharma said in a statement that the company continues “to take active preventative measures.”
But Clark and Rogers say they never got a response from the WHO.
“When the WHO failed to respond to the letter, we began to question why they would remain silent about such a significant and devastating public health epidemic,” they wrote in the report. “The answers we found are deeply disturbing.”
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