US opioid crisis: Purdue Pharma in the spotlight

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It has been reported that in 2017 around 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, many from opiates. The company receiving the most attention is Purdue Pharma, run by the Sackler Family. Last week, the Financial Times launched multiple reports on the Sackler family and revealed a shocking story of manipulative sales tactics.  The family and owners of Purdue Pharma are the makers of the opioid painkiller, OxyContin often described as ‘the heroin pill.’ 

Former employees of Purdue have expressed guilt for how they pushed the dangerously addictive drug on unexperienced doctors under the instruction of their seniors. The Sackler’s have denied any responsibility for their part in the opioid crisis.

The family also owns a smaller operation, Rhodes Pharma which is among the largest producers of off-patent generic opioids in the US. Rhodes and Purdue combined accounted for 14.4m opioid prescriptions in 2016, according to figures seen by the FT, giving them a total share of 6 per cent of the US opioid market.

In June this year, the Massachusetts attorney-general filed a lawsuit against Richard Sackler and seven other members of his clan, accusing them of engaging in a “deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids”. Massachusetts is merely one of the many US states to have launched lawsuits against Purdue.

The family believe this is an ‘inappropriate’ accusation seeing as OxyContin has FDA approval.

Public officials hope that the many legal proceedings against the family will extract millions from their companies to help pay for the cost of the crisis which was estimated at $504 billion per year by the White House.

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