Vermont sues New York family that made billions on opioid sales

Local News

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan said Tuesday that eight members of New York’s Sackler family engaged in unfair and deceptive trade practices to reap profits from prescription opioid abuse and addiction.

Donovan announced the state would sue eight members of the family, which founded Purdue Pharma in the 1950s. In 1995, the company launched OxyContin, a long-lasting, narcotic pain reliever that has been blamed for helping create the opioid epidemic in the United States.

The eight Sacklers named in the suit were officers and/or directors of Purdue Pharma from 1996 to 2018..

Donovan accuses the family members of “unconscionable schemes” aimed at expanding Purdue’s opioids market, including by directing sales representatives to target new and vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.

“The Sackler defendants directed and condoned deceptive acts that led to the full-blown opioids crisis,” Donovan said. “Thousands of Vermonters’ lives have been impacted – and some ruined or lost – as a result of this crisis.”

Donovan has already filed suit against Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of deceiving Vermonters by downplaying the risks and inflating the benefits of OxyContin.  

Numerous states have sued the Sacklers, including New York and Massachusetts.

A recent court filing in Massachusetts included emails and other internal Purdue communications that tied the family to business decisions about how to market OxyContin.

According to a New York Times report on the filing, in 2001, when he was president of Purdue Pharma, Richard Sackler advised blaming the alarming evidence of an opioid crisis on the people who become addicted. 

“We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” Mr. Sackler wrote in an email, the Times reported. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”

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