The family that owns Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, is being sued over the toll of opioid painkillers in one New York county.
Over 1,000 lawsuits have been filed by local and state governments, blaming drug companies for a crisis of opioid overdoses and addiction across the country. Only a few of those lawsuits have named members of the Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, as defendants.
A new filing by New York’s Suffolk County says family members played a role in marketing OxyContin as non-addictive, even though they knew otherwise. The lawsuit claims that the family knew OxyContin was being abused in 1999, but an official from Purdue company told a congressional investigation that they were unsure of these abuses until 2000.
According to the complaint, in 1999, the company allegedly assigned an employee to monitor online chat rooms that focused on drugs after a sales representative raised concerns. A memo sent to board members and senior executives that year stated that users would remove the coating on OxyContin pills to crush them, cook them, snort them or inject them.
The New York lawsuit isn’t the first to name the family personally. In a lawsuit filed in Massachusetts in June, the state’s attorney general accused the Sackler family of a “deadly, deceptive scheme to sell opioids.” The Sackler family denies these allegations.
The lawsuit in Suffolk County is part of a group of lawsuits that are making their way through the state’s courts.
A Cleveland judge is presiding over more than 1,000 similar lawsuits. The judge is urging the governments and companies to come to a far-reaching settlement, including payments and changes in industry business practices.
The manufacturers and distributors of opioids argue that they cannot be held liable for selling a product that’s legal and regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).