Sackler Family Members Still Aren't Taking Responsibility for the OxyContin Crisis

Members of the family behind Purdue Pharma testified under oath Thursday and took a lashing from furious legislators.
December 17, 2020, 11:32pm
In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Conn.
In this Aug. 17, 2018, file photo, family and friends who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family, in Stamford, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File)

Members of the Sackler family continued to deny any personal responsibility for the opioid crisis in a congressional hearing Thursday where furious legislators grilled them over the money they’ve made from the addictive painkiller OxyContin. 


In the hearing before the House Oversight Committee—one of the first times members of the family behind drugmaker Purdue Pharma has ever testified under oath—legislators questioned two Sacklers over Purdue’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin after it was introduced in 1996. And Congress members also wanted to know how the family financially benefited from sales of the opioid drug, even as the company faced increased scrutiny.

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“I’m not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil than yours,” Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat, said Thursday.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York and chairwoman of the committee, asked  whether Kathe Sackler, a Purdue Pharma board member from 1990 to 2018 and a former vice president, would “apologize to the American people” for any part she might’ve played in the drug overdose epidemic.


“I would be happy to apologize to the American people for all of the pain they’ve suffered and for the tragedies that they’ve experienced in their families,” said Sackler, adding that she’s angry “some people working at Purdue broke the law.”

“I know you’re angry, and I’m sorry, but that’s not the apology we were looking for,” Maloney responded. “You apologized for the pain people have suffered. But you’ve never apologized for the role that you played in the opioid crisis. So I’ll ask you again: Will you apologize for the role that you played in the opioid crisis?” 

“There’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then, and what I learned from management and the reports to the board, and what I learned from my colleagues on the board,” Sackler said.

Maloney then turned to David Sackler, a board member from 2012 to 2018, who was also testifying Thursday, and asked if he’d apologize.

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“I echo much of what my cousin said,” Sackler said. “I will say to the American people, I am deeply and profoundly sorry that OxyContin has played a role in any addiction and death. While I believe I conducted myself legally and ethically—and I believe the full record will demonstrate that—I still feel absolutely terrible that a product created to help—and has helped so many people—has also been associated with death and addiction.” 

More than 232,000 Americans died from overdoses involving prescription opioids, including OxyContin, from 1999 to 2018, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The congressional panel castigated the family for much of the hearing. Maloney also played video statements from individuals impacted by the opioid crisis. 

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat, grew incensed after he shared photos of ritzy properties owned by David Sackler. 

“Mr. Sackler, this is your home in Bel Air, California, correct?” Krishnamoorthi asked as a photo of a $22.5 million mansion, complete with a pool and stylish spiral staircase, flashed across the screen. 

“No, I’ve never even spent a night there,” Sackler said.

“But you own property in California?” Krishnamoorthi asked.

“A trust for my benefit owns it as an investment,” Sackler responded. 

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Krishnamoorthi shared another image—that time a listing for a luxe Manhattan apartment, sold for $6.1 million in 2019. 


“Mr. Sackler, I know that people got addicted to prescription drugs such as OxyContin,” Krishnamoorthi said. “I would submit, sir, that you and your family are addicted to money.” 

Purdue Pharma, which filed for bankruptcy last year, pleaded guilty last month to three criminal charges that stemmed from reporting misleading information to the DEA, paying two doctors through a speaker program so they’d write more prescriptions, and paying an electronic health records company so it would refer or recommend opioid drugs to doctors. 


The Sacklers have not been criminally charged. But eight members of the family have faced a volley of lawsuits, according to the Guardian.