HomedrugsThe Sackler Dynasty: Ruthless Marketing of Painkillers Generates Billions of Dollars, Millions...
The Sackler Dynasty: Ruthless Marketing of Painkillers Generates Billions of Dollars, Millions of Addicts
Nov 2, 2017
The Sackler family has given millions of dollars to make the world a better place; they've sponsored professorships, provided medical school scholarships, started philanthropic foundations, given countless grants and donations to museums and universities around the world and so forth. There are whole departments and wings bearing the Sackler name, and with good reason. The "dynasty" was started by three brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and Arthur, all of whom were doctors. They bought a pharmaceutical firm known as Purdue Pharma in 1952. Fast forward to 2017, and the Sackler family is one of the richest in the world. How can that be explained? Purdue manufactures painkillers such as hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl, codeine and hydrocodone. So, the Sackler family has used its massive wealth to make the world a better place, yes, but at what cost?
The wealth of the Sackler family. The Sackler family has a combined estimated wealth of over $13 billion, according to Forbes. That makes them one of the richest families in the world.
Amassing a fortune. While the elder Sacklers were successful, the family didn't really earn its fortune until recently. That is largely due in part to Purdue Pharma's crown jewel: OxyContin.
The largest fine in pharmaceutical history. Purdue Pharma paid the largest fine in pharmaceutical history due to deceptive marketing practices in connection with OxyContin. The company is accused of misrepresenting the extended-release medication; promising providers and patients that each tablet would provide 12 hours of uninterrupted pain relief.
OxyContin lawsuit. However, Pharma allegedly knew that there was a high risk of users building up a tolerance to the drug and developing an intense craving to take more tablets than prescribed. They were aware of the huge risk of addiction and abuse, but they minimized and misrepresented those risks in order to make the drug look safer and more marketable.
Creating drug addicts. Opiates are among the most dangerous drugs available due to their highly addictive properties. In fact, four out of five heroin users today started off by becoming addicted to prescription pain meds. When the medication became too expensive or too hard to come by, they turned to a less expensive alternative; heroin.
145 a day. 145 Americans die each day as a result of overdosing on drugs, according to the CDC. Since 1999, over 200,000 people have died as a result of overdosing on prescription opiates such as OxyContin.
How much of the opiate crisis can be blamed on the Sackler family? The year that Purdue Pharma launched its first marketing campaign promoting OxyContin, its extended-release tablet, the amount of prescription drug overdoses saw a sharp increase. So, as a whole, how much blame should be placed on the Sacklers? According to an industry expert, the Sacklers bear the lion's share of responsibility.
A conflict of interests. If you visit any of the top medical schools in the US, the odds are, you will easily find rooms named after the Sacklers once you start looking for them. In fact, you'll find schools and buildings named after the Sacklers around the world. So, is it likely for the departmental heads of these schools to speak out against and condemn the Sacklers and risk losing substantial financial endowments?
Getting away with murder. Some critics of the Sacklers do not mince words. Yes, they've built a dynasty and amassed a fortune. But they've also created millions of addicts.
Criminal charges. Several Purdue Pharma executives faced criminal charges when the details of the OxyContin scandal were exposed. The Sacklers, however, managed to get away unscathed.
More than $35 billion. Forbes.com published the following information about the Sackler family. "Purdue, 100% owned by the Sacklers, has generated estimated sales of more than $35 billion since releasing its time-released, supposedly addiction-proof version of the painkiller oxycodone back in 1995. Its annual revenues are about $3 billion, still mostly from OxyContin. The Sacklers also own separate drug companies that sell to Asia, Latin America, Canada and Europe, together generating similar total sales as Purdue’s operation in the United States."
Damages paid. Purdue has paid out millions of dollars in fines as a result of the OxyContin scandal and is currently involved in multiple lawsuits seeking damages. As Forbes reports, "but the drug wasn’t as abuse-resistant as it claimed. Someone looking for a fix could just crush the pills to break the time-release mechanism, then snort the powder for a heroin-like high. Addiction, overdoses and accidental deaths followed, and Purdue Pharma found itself facing charges that it had misbranded OxyContin as far less risky than it was. In 2007, Purdue paid $635 million in fines after pleading guilty to false marketing charges by the Department of Justice. (Sackler family members were never charged.) The company reformulated OxyContin in recent years, making it far more difficult to abuse, but it is still reckoning with lawsuits stemming from its earlier, oft-abused iteration. A case brought by the State of Kentucky also alleging false marketing has been winding its way through the courts since 2007, and damages could exceed $1 billion."
The promotion of OxyContin. Purdue did not merely neglect to clear up confusion about the strength of OxyContin. As the company later admitted, it misleadingly promoted OxyContin as less addictive than older opioids on the market. In this deception, Purdue had a big assist from the FDA, which allowed the company to include an astonishing labeling claim in OxyContin’s package insert: “Delayed absorption, as provided by OxyContin tablets, is believed to reduce the abuse liability of a drug.” Source: thedeepstate.com.
The cost of addiction. Drug addiction and abuse costs the American taxpayers an average of $484 billion each year. This number includes lost job wages, healthcare costs, crime, traffic accidents and associated costs of the criminal justice system, according to aboveitalltreatment.com.
What's your point of view? Do you think that the Sackler family's contributions to the arts and sciences balances out the family's responsibility for the opiate addiction epidemic? Do you think the Sacklers should face criminal charges?