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New York is coming for the Sacklers' OxyContin money

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed an amended lawsuit Thursday against eight members of the Sackler family.

by Emma Ockerman
Mar 28 2019, 6:37pm

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Life isn’t getting any easier for the billionaire family behind the rise of Purdue Pharma and its once-shiny crown jewel, OxyContin.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James filed an amended lawsuit Thursday against eight members of the Sackler family for the role they might’ve played in the opioid overdose crisis that’s cost hundreds of thousands of American lives. The lawsuit alleges the company operated with a profit-at-all-costs attitude concerning OxyContin, while the family shuffled money in and out of their companies to ultimately transfer profits from the drug sales to themselves and shield the cash from litigation, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Sackler family also controls a generic drug company, Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, and manages various entities through their trusts, according to the Journal. But its members swiftly erased a potential paper trail on Purdue’s profits by depositing the drugmaker’s money into offshore companies, prosecutors allege.

Due to the 2,000-plus lawsuits against the company, prosecutors argue the Sacklers should be forced to return the money they allegedly hid overseas or within their other companies — especially since Purdue is close to being insolvent and considering bankruptcy and could face thousands of financial claims. But the bankruptcy considerations are merely a ploy to intimidate states out of the money they’re allegedly owed, according to the lawsuit.

New York’s amended lawsuit hopes to recover money the state has spent on the opioid crisis and alleges that the offshore deposits made the “assets ... no longer available to satisfy Purdue’s future creditor, the state of New York.” New York already had filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma but added the bankruptcy claims and defendants including Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Allergan on Thursday, according to the New York Times.

Purdue and the Sacklers have repeatedly denied the claims against them, which primarily center around allegations that they misled patients and doctors when they marketed OxyContin as a safe, non-addictive drug.

“Expanding this baseless lawsuit to include former directors of Purdue Pharma is a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis. We strongly deny these allegations, which are inconsistent with the factual record, and will vigorously defend against them," a spokesperson for the Sacklers said.

Earlier this week, Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers agreed to a $270 million payout to Oklahoma to settle a lawsuit there. And last week, more than 500 cities, counties, and Native American tribes filed a class action lawsuit against the Sacklers for allegedly profiting off the opioid epidemic.

Cover image: This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Oklahoma's attorney general will announce a settlement Tuesday, March 26, 2019, with Purdue Pharma, one of the drug manufacturers named in a state lawsuit that accuses them of fueling the opioid epidemic. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)