The Politics of Drugs: Purdue & the DOJ

(Seventh in a series of topical blogs based on chapter by chapter excerpts from Opiate Nation. Translation into most languages is available to the right.)

When public health is at risk, one can only wonder about the motives behind politicians’ decisions – our “public servants” as they used to be referred to – regardless of what they may say. But we don’t have to guess their motives because actions speak louder than words and the actions of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) this week regarding Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family are unconscionable. This deal is not justice for the victims and their families for this pervasive and criminal corporate greed.

On the surface, the announcement of an $8.3 billion settlement sounds great. The company that aggressively started the opioid crisis and purposefully continued it in order to profit from it for two decades should have to pay until it hurts. They filed for bankruptcy last year – how can we squeeze more blood out of this turnip? But it’s what the DOJ isn’t saying that is important for we – the parents and families – whose loved ones were swept up into deadly addictions and those who are continuing their life or death struggle with opioids. Take a moment to consider some of the highlights of this deal:
 although they admitted to multiple felonies, neither the Sackler family, who own Purdue, nor company officials, will serve prison time
 in reality, Purdue and the Sackler’s will each only pay out $225 million since they are in bankruptcy
 the company will operate as a public trust under government control, continuing to manufacture opioid medications in order to give the Sackler’s a family legacy
 25 state attorneys general urged the Justice Department to “avoid having special ties to an opioid company” – and to not make this deal, but to no avail
 the personal assets of members of the Sackler family could be protected from future liability for their role in the opioid crisis – their personal fortunes are estimated at $13 BILLION
 the DOJ requested the judge to protect Purdue and the Sackler’s by keeping secret certain disclosures that Purdue made about company activities
 parents’ w/children killed by OxyContin wrote to Attorney General Barr asking for one hour to meet with his lawyers investigating Purdue and the Sackler’s. The DOJ never replied.

Why are we protecting this criminal enterprise? This secrecy is eerily similar to a deal the DOJ made with Purdue the first time they were prosecuted in 2007. That settlement was a slap on the hand with about $650 million in fines over illegal opioid marketing practices but with no criminal charges. Purdue paid up and then continued on their merry way with the same targeted marketing of OxyContin along with other addictive meds. This went on for another 10 years raking in billions of dollars for the Sackler family, while young people like my son became irreversibly hooked on Oxy’s and then – due to the high cost of having to buy them on the street – switched to heroin. The rest is history, our history, hundreds of thousands of other family’s histories.

Author: Jude DiMeglio Trang

My husband, John, and I are parents of a young opiate addict who died of an accidental heroin overdose at 25. These are our credentials for writing and working towards reversing the exponentially rising statistics for opiate addiction and deaths in our country and the world.

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