With the Trump administration declaring war on the opioid epidemic, many of us are wondering who exactly is to blame for the crisis in the first place. Some have suggested that that manufacturers of pharmaceuticals are to blame for our current predicament. In fact, states, cities, and even small municipalities have attempted to sue the manufacturers and/or wholesalers of prescription drugs. One name that often comes up in discussions regarding opioid addiction and big pharma is Dr. Richard S. Sackler.
Sackler heads one of the wealthiest families in the world, whose shared assets total $13 billion. A significant source of Sackler’s wealth has come from his privately held firm, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Since first hitting the market in 1995, the potentially addictive painkiller has earned an estimated $35 billion in revenue. Many consider the popularity of OxyContin to be the trigger of the opioid epidemic.
The success of OxyContin at the turn of the 21st century was primarily due to Purdue’s aggressive marketing tactics. However these tactics also got the company into trouble with the Justice Department. In 2007, the pharmaceutical corporation pleaded guilty to a felony related to false marketing of their pills. The company ended up paying $635 million and three of its top executives accepted guilt and had to pay fines.
Sackler became president of Purdue in 1999 and then became the co-chairman of the board in 2003. He was and still is a big part Purdue. According to his published resume, he rose to “a series of positions of increasing responsibility, including direct management of both the Research and Development and the Sales and Marketing functions.” In 2015, Purdue settled out of court with Kentucky, a state that has been ravaged by the opioid epidemic. The settlement was for $24 million, with no admission of wrongdoing.
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