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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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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.
The Louvre in Paris has removed the name of the Sackler family from its walls, becoming the first major museum to erase its public association with the philanthropist family linked with the opioid crisis in the United States.
The Louvre’s collection of Persian and Levantine artifacts is housed in a wing that has been known as the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities since 1997.
But on Wednesday, a plaque acknowledging the Sacklers’ donations had been removed from the gallery’s entrance, and references to “the Sackler Wing” on other signs in the museum had been covered with gray tape.
Members of the Sackler family own Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, an enormously profitable and frequently abused painkiller that is the subject of numerous lawsuits in the United States.
In March, Britain’s National Portrait Gallery turned down a $1.3 million donation from a charitable arm of the family. That prompted a host of cultural institutions across Europe and the United States, including the Tate group of museums in Britain and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, to announce that they would not accept further donations from the family. The Sackler Trust and the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, two foundations based in Britain, suspended further philanthropy.
But many museums also said they would respect past philanthropy and would not be changing the name of any wing or gallery named after the family.
Sophie Aguirre, 50, a guard at the Louvre, said on Wednesday that the plaque at the wing was taken down on either July 8 or 9, when the wing was closed to visitors.
Nine other signs in the building that referenced the wing had been taped over. Ms. Aguirre said another large sign that acknowledged the Sackler donation had also been removed.References to “the Sackler Wing” have also been removed from the Louvre’s website.
On Tuesday, Jean-Luc Martinez, the museum’s president, told RTL, a French radio station, that the Sackler name had been taken down because the Louvre’s policy on naming rights is that they last for 20 years.
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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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Members of the Sackler family that own the manufacturer of OxyContin, the prescription painkiller largely blamed for the opioids crisis, have asked a court to dismiss the most high-profile lawsuit against them – and on Tuesday declared that they feel “deep and profound compassion for people who are struggling with addiction”.
The eight prominent members of the multi-billionaire family are being sued in several large civil cases brought by hundreds of US cities, counties and states, accusing them of pushing aggressive sales of the drug while knowingly downplaying its dangers. On Monday night they filed a motion to dismiss the suit brought against them by Massachusetts.
The company they own, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin, the most well-known brand of opioid pill, previously asked the court in Boston to toss out the suit in which it is also named.
The family accused Massachusetts of “completely fabricating” some accusations “out of whole cloth”, relying on allegations “rife with mischaracterizations and factual inaccuracies” and failing to show how any of the individuals being sued had broken the law.
“It’s hard to justify the inaccuracies. You’re entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts,” said an attorney for the members of the Sackler family sued in the Massachusetts civil case.
The Massachusetts attorney general, Maura Healey, sued Purdue and several other pharmaceutical companies last year and also named the eight Sacklers. They face a host of other investigations.
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A group made up of more than 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes across the United States has filed a massive lawsuit accusing members of the Sackler family, who own the maker of the opioid painkiller OxyContin, of helping to create “the worst drug crisis in American history”.
The lawsuit represents communities in 26 states and eight tribes and accuses Sackler family members of knowingly breaking laws in order to enrich themselves to the tune of billions of dollars, while hundreds of thousands of Americans died.
“Eight people in a single family made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic,” the lawsuit, filed earlier this week in federal court in the southern district of New York, states.
The same eight members of the family had recently been added to a small number of lawsuits that are underway against a string of opioid-makers, including the Connecticut-based pharmaceutical company the Sacklers wholly own, Purdue Pharma, but they have not been sued as individuals on anything like this scale before.
“This nation is facing an unprecedented opioid addiction epidemic that was initiated and perpetuated by the Sackler defendants for their own financial gain, to the detriment of each of the plaintiffs and their residents. The ‘Sackler defendants’ include Richard Sackler, Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Jonathan Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Mortimer DA Sackler, and Theresa Sackler,” this week’s lawsuit states.
The eight are the most high-profile members of a family which has long been known for prolific philanthropy to famous arts and education institutions, including the Metropolitan and Guggenheim museums in New York, which have faced fierce recent protests against the taking of Sackler money. Other institutions include Columbia, Yale, MIT, Tufts and other US universities, and, in the UK, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Serpentine Gallery, Glasgow University and other recipients.