Purdue’s David Sackler Added to Colorado Opioid Lawsuit

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Photo by Dr. Farzana Rashid Hossain

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced on Monday that he is expanding the state’s lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma to include the pharmaceutical company’s owner, David Sackler and his billionaire family, along with a list of company executives, reports The Colorado Sun.

Before this announcement was made, David Sackler sat down with Vanity Fair last week in an exclusive interview for the first time to plead his case.

Despite the 400,000 opioid deaths that have occurred since Purdue Pharma entered OxyContin into the market in 1996, Sackler says, “We didn’t cause the crisis.”

Colorado’s lawsuit expansion will allow state lawyers to put to use the state’s new consumer protection laws “that raised the size of the penalties that can be levied against a company found to have acted inappropriately.”

The new policies also make it easier for the state to prove “that a company has committed wrongdoing,” writes The Colorado Sun.

Weiser pledged that any money received from the lawsuit will go to helping Colorado patients with medical-related costs and receive treatment for their addiction.

“The actions of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma included sharing studies that they knew were misleading, claiming that this was an effective, long-term treatment that didn’t give rise to risks of addiction,” Attorney General Weiser told The Colorado Sun reporters on Monday.

“Those claims were verifiably false and ignored expert warnings. And they even undermined studies suggesting that there were addictive effects.”

Vanity Fair reports some of those false statements include “that OxyContin was less prone to abuse because of its extended-release formula … The inconvenient truth, as the FDA noted in 2010, was that “the risk for misuse and abuse is greater” for extended-release opioids.”

The second, and most misleading claim based on a five-sentence letter written by a doctor said, “that less than 1 percent of patients taking OxyContin would become addicted.”

When asked about the devastating effects OxyContin has had on Americans, Sackler told Vanity Fair that his family is heartbroken.

“We have so much empathy – I’m sorry we didn’t start with that. We feel absolutely terrible. Facts will show we didn’t cause the crisis, but we want to help,” he said.

At the end of Attorney General Weiser’s press conference, he listed eight names of individuals in the Sackler family that are now being targeted by the lawsuit, including the companies Purdue Pharma L.P., Purdue Pharma Inc., Rhodes Pharmaceuticals L.P. and MNP Consulting Limited.

Recently, other states have gone after Purdue Pharma and personally targeted the Sackler family.

In January, Massachusetts began attacking the pharmaceutical giant because of the devastating impacts of opioids in their communities. New Jersey sued the Sackler family in May, and last month, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro field a lawsuit on behalf of the state, reports CNN.

Andrea Cipriano is a TCR news intern.

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