Justice Department Refuses to Let Sacklers Off the Hook for Opioid Claims

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Editorial cartoon by Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2016, via Flickr

The Justice Department has moved to block a bankruptcy plan that grants broad legal immunity to the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, creator of the drug OxyContin, filing a motion in federal court to halt confirmation of the settlement while the department appeals the judge’s decision to approve the deal, reports the New York Times.

William K. Harrington, the U.S. trustee for the Justice Department, said that the court should grant his request for a stay because the federal government “has a substantial possibility of success on appeal and because the harm that would result from denying a stay outweighs any potential harm from granting one.”

Judge Robert Drain, a federal judge in White Plains, N.Y., approved the deal which could release the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, from future legal liability in exchange for a $4.3 billion financial contribution from the family’s own fortune.

Harrington argued in his filing that the deal takes away the rights of those with a valid legal claim against the Sacklers “without their knowing and informed consent, adequate notice or an opportunity to be heard,” and that the government’s case was supported by previous Supreme Court rulings.

According to a report filed in New York  bankruptcy court in 2019, Purdue generated more than $10 billion  for the Sacklers from sales of OxyContin since 2008.

Additional reading:  Sacklers Refuse to Settle Opioid Suits Without Immunity, The Crime Report, Aug 18, 2021

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