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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