Sacklers Infuriate Lawmakers

Family behind Purdue Pharma has no regrets over opioid crisis
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2020 4:38 PM CST
Sacklers Infuriate Lawmakers
David Sackler testifies Thursday on video before the House Oversight Committee.   (House Television via AP)

The opioid epidemic has killed more than 400,000 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescription opioids including Oxycontin, which Purdue Pharma put on the market about 25 years ago, caused about 230,000 of the deaths. The company's marketing pitched the pills to doctors as a safe, less addictive option for treating pain. That wasn't true. But if anyone's to blame for the toll, the company's CEO and the family behind Purdue said Thursday, it's not them. "There's nothing I can find that I would have done differently," said Kathe Sackler, a former board member. "The family and the board acted legally and ethically," said David Sackler, who also was on the board. All were testifying under oath before a US House committee. It was the first time the Sacklers, who are worth about $13 billion, had to answer for Purdue's actions in public, NPR reports.

Answers like those didn't go over well with the members of the committee. "We don't agree on a lot on this committee in a bipartisan way," said Rep. James Comer, a Kentucky Republican. "But I think our opinion of Purdue Pharma and the actions of your family, we all agree are sickening." Although Purdue is in bankruptcy, chief executive Craig Landau said he woudn't decline the $3 million bonus he's due. The company has pleaded guilty to criminal charges, but the family and company wouldn't take any personal responsibility in their testimony. Kathe Sackler did say, "My heart breaks for the parents who have lost their children." Lawmakers weren't mollified, per Politico, given the billions of dollars in profit OxyContin produced. "I'm not sure that I'm aware of any family in America that's more evil than yours," Democratic Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee told the Sacklers. (An audit found the Sacklers took billions out of the country as the crisis intensified.)

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