Purdue Pharma, the drug maker owned by the billionaire Sackler family, is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing as a result of the hundreds of lawsuits over its role in the opioid epidemic in the United States. The news was first reported by the Wall Street Journal and Reuters on Monday. Purdue has hired consultants to prepare a possible filing. Bankruptcy would allow the drugmaker to negotiate claims with some of the more than 1,500 cities, states, local governments, and others who have filed lawsuits against Purdue.
As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the Sackler family is the billionaire clan that gave the world OxyContin. They are largely accused of lighting the fire that started the opioid crisis. The family allegedly backed the company's push to increase sales rep's visits to doctors and other prescribers of the highly-addictive opioid. Purdue Pharma hired a consulting firm that pushed sales reps to target doctors they identified as "high prescribing." One doctor wrote an additional 167 prescriptions for OxyContin after a sales rep made additional visits to their practice.
A lawsuit in Massachusetts is accusing the Sackler family of directly leading the efforts to boost sales of OxyContin as well as to find a way to profit off the people addicted to opioids and other drugs. The complaint states that the Sacklers labeled people hurt by opioids as "junkies" and "criminals" while at the same time directing most of their marketing efforts to sales of the addictive pill.
The lawsuits against Purdue and other drugmakers have opened up the potential for billions of dollars in liabilities as governing agencies attempt to deal with the growing human and financial costs of the opioid crisis. More than 700,000 people in the U.S. died as a result of a drug overdose from 1999 to 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than two thirds of those deaths were opioid related. The epidemic began with prescription pain killers marketed by Purdue and other drugmakers.