Purdue's ex-chair denies responsibility for the opioid crisis

A former president and board chair of OxyContin, the company that produces OxyContin, told a court Wednesday that his family and the company were not responsible for the current opioid crisis in America.

Purdue's ex-chair denies responsibility for the opioid crisis

Richard Sackler was a member the family that owns Purdue Pharma. He was asked by oath whether he, his kin, or the company were responsible during a federal bankruptcy hearing. Sackler simply answered "No" for each.

The Sackler family has repeatedly denied wrongdoing in the Opioid Crisis, despite the fact that the company they own twice pleaded guilty federal crimes for their opioid practices.

It's not common for relatives to be asked directly about the matter in open court. The hearing at White Plains Federal Bankruptcy Court, New York was conducted via videoconference.

Richard Sackler hasn't appeared in public forums for years, except for video of a 2015 deposition. His denial of responsibility for the opioid crisis comes a day after his son testified that the family wouldn't accept a settlement without guarantees of immunity from further legal action.

Robert Drain, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge, stated Wednesday that he expects testimony to be complete Thursday and final arguments Monday. A decision will likely come later next week.

Richard Sackler, who was present at Wednesday's hearing, stated that he suffered from laryngitis and that his voice was sometimes weak.

After answering more than three hours worth of questions, mostly from Maryland Assistant attorney General Brian Edmunds. His most frequent answer was "I don't remember."

Sackler's father was one of three brothers that bought the company that became Purdue Pharma nearly 70 years ago. He didn't remember emails he wrote 10 or more years ago, whether Purdue's Board approved certain sales strategies, whether Sackler family members owned a company selling opioids in Argentina, or whether he paid any money as part of a $75 million settlement with Oklahoma.

He often answered questions with more questions to get precision.

Edmunds asked Sackler if he knew the number of Americans who had died as a result of using opioids.

Edmunds did this from 2005 to 2017.

Sackler stated, "I don’t know." Sackler said that he had examined some past data about deaths.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have tallied over 500,000 deaths due to opioid overdoses since 2000. This includes prescription and illicit drugs, as well as illegally manufactured fentanyl.

Edmunds also asked if he had ever spoken to sales managers.

Sackler asked, "Can you define sales managers?"

Edmunds did. Sackler then said that he doesn't remember any of these conversations.

Edmunds inquired about a dispute over sales targets for company sales at one time. Sackler corrected him.

He said, "You used the term 'dispute'." It wasn't a dispute. It was an opinion difference."

Plaintiffs are suing Richard Sackler (now 76) for alleged involvement in the national opioid epidemic.

He told company sales staff that there would be a "blizzard" of prescriptions to bury the competition at the launch of OxyContin sales in 1996.

Five years later, when it became clear that powerful prescription pain medication was being misused in certain cases, Purdue stated in an email that he would "hammer on abusers in any way possible" and that they were "the problem and the culprits."

These are the reasons why activists who fight against opioid-selling companies often view Sackler, who was president from 1999 to 2003 and chaired its board from 2004 to 2007, as a prime villain.

The wealthy have always avoided the spotlight in business, but welcomed it in philanthropy. In recent years, however, the opioid crisis has caused some museums to close their ties, including the Louvre in Paris, and Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Richard Sackler's testimony was given the day after David Sackler testified.

The younger Sackler also served on Purdue’s board. He reiterated a long-held family position: They will only agree to their part in the plan to restructure Purdue if they receive protection against lawsuits over opioids or other Purdue actions.

David Sackler stated that if those provisions are not retained in the agreement, the family could be sued. He stated, "I believe that we would litigate all claims until their final outcome."

Richard Sackler stated Wednesday that the family wouldn't agree to it if the states opposed to the deal weren't bound by it. He said that the family would continue with lawsuits against the company as well as family members.

The proposed settlement would see the Sackler family give up their ownership of Purdue, and they would contribute $4.5 billion in cash and control over charitable funds. The opioid crisis would benefit from the majority of the money and Purdue's future profits. Some would be given to victims and their families.

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