The Press

Com­pany ad­mits charges over role in US opi­oid cri­sis


US phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany Pur­due Pharma has pleaded guilty to three crim­i­nal charges, for­mally ad­mit­ting its role in an opi­oid epi­demic that has con­trib­uted to hun­dreds of thou­sands of deaths in Amer­ica over the past two decades.

In a vir­tual hear­ing with a fed­eral judge in Ne­wark, New Jersey yes­ter­day, the OxyCon­tin maker ad­mit­ted im­ped­ing the US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to com­bat the ad­dic­tion cri­sis.

Pur­due ac­knowl­edged that it had not main­tained an ef­fec­tive pro­gramme to pre­vent pre­scrip­tion drugs be­ing di­verted to the black mar­ket, even though it had told the DEA it did have such a pro­gramme, and that it pro­vided mis­lead­ing in­for­ma­tion to the agency as a way to boost com­pany man­u­fac­tur­ing quo­tas.

The com­pany also ad­mit­ted pay­ing doc­tors through a speak­ers pro­gramme to in­duce them to write more pre­scrip­tions for its painkiller­s, and pay­ing an elec­tronic med­i­cal records com­pany to send doc­tors in­for­ma­tion about pa­tients that en­cour­aged them to pre­scribe opi­oids.

The guilty pleas were en­tered by Pur­due board chair Steve Miller on be­half of the com­pany. They were part of a crim­i­nal and civil set­tle­ment an­nounced last

month be­tween the Stam­ford, Con­necti­cut-based com­pany and the US Jus­tice De­part­ment.

The deal in­cludes US$8.3 bil­lion (NZ$11.89b) in penal­ties and for­fei­tures, but Pur­due is on the hook for a di­rect pay­ment to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of only

US$225 mil­lion (NZ$322m), as long as it ex­e­cutes a set­tle­ment mov­ing through fed­eral bankruptcy court with state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments and other en­ti­ties su­ing it over the toll of the opi­oid epi­demic.

Mem­bers of the wealthy Sack­ler fam­ily, who own the com­pany, have also agreed to pay

US$225m to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to set­tle civil claims. No crim­i­nal charges have been filed against fam­ily mem­bers, al­though their deal leaves open the pos­si­bil­ity of that in the fu­ture.

Pur­due’s guilty pleas to fed­eral crimes pro­vides only mi­nor com­fort for ad­vo­cates who want to see harsher penal­ties for the OxyCon­tin maker and its own­ers.

The US’s on­go­ing drug over­dose cri­sis, which ap­pears to be grow­ing worse dur­ing the coro­n­avirus pan­demic, has con­trib­uted to the deaths of more than 470,000 Amer­i­cans over the past two decades, most of those from le­gal and il­licit opi­oids.

The at­tor­neys-gen­eral for about half the states op­posed the fed­eral set­tle­ment. They and some ac­tivists are up­set that de­spite the Sack­lers giv­ing up con­trol of the com­pany, the fam­ily re­mains wealthy and its mem­bers will not face prison or other in­di­vid­ual penal­ties.

 ?? AP ?? OxyCon­tin maker Pur­due has ad­mit­ted im­ped­ing the US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.
AP OxyCon­tin maker Pur­due has ad­mit­ted im­ped­ing the US Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion.

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