Pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which recently filed for bankruptcy after thousands of lawsuits alleged that the company helped fuel an opioid epidemic in the United States, moved up to $13 billion in profits to the company’s controlling family, the Sacklers, according to an unspecified number of U.S. states.
The states said the 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 on Oct. 3 and 4. The company ultimately transferred $12 billion or $13 billion to the family, a company adviser testified in a deposition that was revealed in recent court filings.
Since the introduction of OxyContin in 1996, addiction and overdoses have surged. More than 2,600 lawsuits assert that Purdue aggressively sold OxyContin as a drug with a low risk of addiction, despite the company knowing it wasn’t. The privately held company now aims to restructure under terms of a proposal to settle the widespread litigation.
The amount transferred to the family was significantly larger than the amount previous lawsuits alleged the Sacklers took out of Purdue, which was roughly $4 billion.
The Sackler family didn’t respond to a request for comment for this article in relation to the money transfers. They have previously denied contributing to the opioid epidemic.
As part of the settlement, the Sacklers promised they would contribute a minimum of $3 billion toward solving the lawsuits. Many states, however, want the Sacklers to contribute more than that amount.
Purdue filed for bankruptcy in court on Sept. 15 as part of a tentative agreement Purdue reached “in principle” with 24 state attorneys general and analogous officials from five U.S. territories in relation to settling their opioid litigation.
According to Purdue, their settlement restructure is estimated to provide “more than $10 billion” in value to address the deadly opioid crisis.
However, the attorneys general have objected to Purdue’s settlement request, raising the 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 company denies any wrongdoing, and Miller previously told reporters in a conference call that it doesn’t intend to admit to any misconduct.
A recent report by the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), meanwhile, found the Drug Enforcement Agency was slow to address the opioid epidemic and authorized an increase in opioid production quotas despite the rise in overdose deaths.
Some critics say the billions of dollars Purdue and the Sackler family will pay isn’t enough. Attorneys told The Epoch Times in September they believe criminal charges could be warranted.
John H. Hickey, a trial attorney with more than 36 years of experience in personal injury and wrongful death cases, told The Epoch Times that Purdue likely knew for a long period of time that people were abusing their pain killers, yet did nothing.
“The abuse has been worldwide and abuse has been the rule, as opposed to the exception,” he said. “That kind of knowledge has to be investigated and I believe it should be investigated criminally.”
The opioid epidemic has been deemed a public health crisis and claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 people between 1999 and 2017, according to the latest U.S. data. On average, the epidemic takes the lives of 130 people every day across the United States.
David Reischer, a bankruptcy attorney and the CEO of LegalAdvice.com, told The Epoch Times that it’s “certainly conceivable” that bankruptcy wouldn’t protect the Sackler family if the transfers were intended to hide assets.
“If this is the case, as has already been reported in the media, a bankruptcy judge may not allow the Sackler family to profit from these unlawful transactions,” he said. “As such, a bankruptcy judge may attempt to disgorge personal assets of the Sackler family in order to attempt to make creditors whole.”
Reuters contributed to this report.