US states: Sacklers made $13B from OxyContin

HIDING BEHIND BANKRUPTCY?: A bottle of prescription painkiller OxyContin, 40mg pills, made by Purdue Pharma L.D. sit on a counter at a local pharmacy, in Provo, Utah, on April 25, 2017. Reuters file photo

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP steered up to $13 billion in profits to the company’s controlling Sackler family, according to U.S. states opposing efforts to halt lawsuits alleging the company and its owners helped fuel the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The wealthy Sacklers received the money from Purdue during an unspecified time frame, according to court documents and portions of a deposition filed in the drugmaker’s bankruptcy proceedings this week.

Purdue ultimately transferred $12 billion or $13 billion to the family, a company adviser testified in the deposition. The deposition, taken last week, was revealed in court filings on Thursday and Friday.

The financial figure is significantly larger than the roughly $4 billion previous lawsuits have alleged the Sacklers took out of Purdue, and was cited as part of coordinated legal broadsides this week against the company’s attempts to shield itself and the family from sprawling opioid litigation.

Many states want the Sacklers to contribute more than an initial $3 billion they have pledged toward resolving the lawsuits as part of a settlement Purdue has proposed.

Attorneys general from 24 states and the District of Columbia on Friday objected to Purdue’s September request that a U.S. bankruptcy judge halt more than 2,600 lawsuits seeking billions of dollars in damages, and they raised financial transfers to the Sacklers in their legal arguments.

So, too, did lawyers representing 500 cities, counties and Native American tribes, according to an earlier court filing.

“The distribution numbers do not reflect the fact that many billions of dollars from that amount were paid in taxes and reinvested in businesses that will be sold as part of the proposed settlement,” said Daniel S. Connolly, a lawyer for family members facing lawsuits who are related to the late Raymond Sackler, one of the modern Purdue’s co-founders, in a statement.

A spokesman for relatives of another deceased company co-founder, Mortimer Sackler, who also face litigation, had no immediate comment.

Purdue had no immediate comment on the payments. The company and family have denied allegations they contributed to the U.S. opioid crisis.

The lawsuits, largely brought by state and local governments, allege Purdue and the Sacklers contributed to a public health crisis that has claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people since 1999 by aggressively marketing opioids while downplaying their addiction and overdose risks.

“The Sacklers are billionaires, they are not bankrupt,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, among the officials opposing Purdue’s efforts to halt lawsuits, told Reuters in an interview. “They should not be allowed to use the filing to shield their assets.”

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