Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves Perdue Pharma and Criminal Charges.
The Justice Department announced it reached an $8.3 billion settlement with OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, as a result of criminal and civil investigations by federal prosecutors into the company’s marketing of opioid painkillers.
Purdue Pharma agreed to plead guilty in federal court in New Jersey to three felony counts for defrauding the United States and violating the anti kickback statute from 2009 to 2017 in what the Justice Department said was “the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer.” The $8.3 billion global settlement includes a criminal fine of $3.544 billion, criminal forfeiture of $2 billion and a civil settlement of $2.8 billion.
Federal prosecutors alleged that the company that manufactured millions of opioid pills during the height of the epidemic, paid two doctors through Purdue’s doctor speaker program and an electronic health records company to drive up prescriptions for its opioid products, including its top seller OxyContin.
“The kickback effectively put Purdue marketing department in the exam room with their thumb on the scale at precisely the moment doctors were making critical decisions about patient health,” District of Vermont U.S. Attorney Christina E. Nolan said at the Justice Department briefing.
The criminal plea does not preclude the potential for criminal charges in the future against any executive or member of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma.
In a statement, family members denied criminal culpability. They sought to distinguish between their ownership and leadership of the company and the individual criminal acts of managers.
The family members include Richard Sackler, David Sackler, Mortimer D.A. Sackler, Kathe Sackler, and Jonathan Sackler (who is now deceased) demanded in 2012 that company executives come up with a plan to generate greater revenue in response to slumping sales, according to the settlement. They approved a new marketing plan called “Evolve to Excellence’’ in which “Purdue sales representatives intensified their marketing of OxyContin to extreme, high volume prescribers who were already writing ’25 times as many OxyContin scripts’ as their peers,’’ the Justice Department said.
The efforts directly led to uses of the addictive tablets that were “unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary, and that often led to abuse and diversion,’’ the government said.
The $8 billion figure is largely symbolic the bankrupt drugmaker is already indebted to states, communities and other creditors. The company is among several drugmakers and distributors embroiled in litigation over the deaths and economic devastation inflicted by the opioid epidemic. In the past two decades, more than 400,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses.
Purdue acknowledged the wrongdoing the company was resolving, saying Wednesday that it is a “very different company” today.
“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” said Steve Miller, who has headed the company’s board since July 2018.