DOJ announces $8B-plus settlement with OxyContin maker

Preliminary CDC data show that drug overdose deaths, after a brief dip in 2018, hit a record high in 2019, with nearly 72,000 fatalities. The toll continues to climb this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Opioids, which account for most drug deaths, were involved in two out of every three drug overdose fatalities in 2018, according to the CDC.

Controversy over the agreement: The resolution with the Trump administration also includes a mandate to dissolve Purdue, with the Sacklers relinquishing all ownership and control. The company’s assets, pending the approval of a bankruptcy court, will be redirected to a government-owned “public benefit company” that will still produce OxyContin and opioid addiction treatment.

Last week, 25 state attorneys general wrote a letter urging the Justice Department against making such a move, saying the government shouldn’t benefit from sales of OxyContin, the 25-year-old drug that helped power the addiction crisis. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen defended the plan against those criticisms.

“It was also our judgment on this that while prescription opioids can be abused, diverted, misused in very harmful ways, it’s a prescription pharmaceutical that does have some positive uses, and maintaining supply of those is itself something that could be beneficial,” Rosen told reporters Wednesday.

Rosen declined to say why DOJ didn’t pursue criminal charges against the Sacklers, noting only that the civil resolution doesn’t absolve them from other legal claims.

Purdue will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the government and kickback schemes involving payments to prescribing doctors and an electronic health records company.

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DOJ Reaches $8 Billion Settlement With OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma | Politics

Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of the prescription painkiller OxyContin, reached an $8 billion settlement with the Department of Justice and will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges in connection with its role in America’s opioid crisis.

The Justice Department announced on Wednesday that it had reached a resolution in its investigation into individual shareholders from the Sackler family, who own the pharmaceutical company.

Purdue Pharma will plead guilty in a New Jersey federal court to three felony counts, including one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

The deal does not release the company’s executives or owners from criminal liability and a criminal investigation is ongoing.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said in the announcement. “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

According to the Justice Department, the resolution includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical company and includes a criminal fine of $3.544 billion, an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture and a $2.8 billion civil settlement.

Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages.

A Rebirth Behind Bars

June 3, 2018 | Colonial Heights, Virginia | Patsy Tucker, 32, center, prays with her family during a weekly Sunday get-together at her mother's house in Colonial Heights, Va. June 3, 2018. 

Patsy started using heroin at 25, after a car accident and a prescription for opioids turned into a full-blown heroin addiction. Patsy was born to Diana McArthur, far left, when she was 16 years old. "We grew up together," Diana said. During Patsy's years of drug abuse, Diana said she couldn't imagine it ever ending. But just over two years ago, it did. Patsy found recovery when she was locked up in the Chesterfield County Jail. As she lay on the jail floor in the throws of heroin withdrawal, Sheriff Karl Leonard told her to get up - she was going to be the first female participant of HARP (Heroin Addiction Recovery Program), an in-jail, Narcotics Anonymous-styled recovery group. "The Sheriff saw in me what I couldn't see in myself," Patsy said.

Steve Miller, who became chairman of the company’s board in 2018, said in a press release that the company “deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice.”

The company filed for bankruptcy last year as it wades through thousands of civil lawsuits. As part of the resolution, Purdue Pharma would cease to operate in its current form and would instead transition to a public benefit company owned by a trust or similar entity. The new company would be operated under different ownership and “will work to provide for free or at cost millions of doses of lifesaving opioid addiction treatment and overdose reversal medicines,” the press release stated.

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