Massachusetts Blames Sackler Family for Fueling Opioid Epidemic

New details have emerged from the Massachusetts’ lawsuit against OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma. The updated complaint alleges that the family that owns Purdue Pharma is personally responsible for fueling the opioid epidemic.

The filing extends the lawsuit against the drugmaker to include 16 current and former members of the Sackler family, who owns the company, as well as former executives.

The lawsuit claims that the Sacklers, over the last decade, were in control of a deceptive marketing campaign by Purdue which intended to get more people to take higher doses of opioids to boost profits.

The state alleges that the Sackler family directed the company to hire hundreds of sales representatives to visit doctors in an attempt to get them to prescribe its painkiller drug. The complaint also alleges that the family directed sales agents to persuade doctors to prescribe the opioids at higher doses.

The lawsuit also contends that the Sackler family “studied unlawful tactics to keep patients on opioids longer and then ordered staff to use them.”

Purdue Pharma called Massachusetts’ updated complaint “irresponsible and inaccurate.” The company has vowed to “aggressively defend” against the allegations.

OxyContin has been the world’s top-selling opioid drug, and it generates billions of dollars for Purdue Pharma. The company announced in February that it was cutting its sales force in half and will no longer be marketing the drug to doctors.

Purdue Pharma is now defending lawsuits from several local governments and states. This is not the first time the company has faced lawsuits over its painkillers.

In 2007, the pharmaceutical company agreed to pay $19.5 million to settle lawsuits in 26 states. Those lawsuits claimed that Purdue Pharma used aggressive marketing tactics to sell OxyContin while downplaying the risk of addiction. Purdue did not admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement.