Until the third hour of the testimony before the Federal Insolvency Court by Dr. Richard Sackler, a former president and co-chair of the board of directors of Purdue Pharma, the prescription opioid maker founded by members of the Sackler family, asked a lawyer a chain of questions:
“Do you have any responsibility for the opioid crisis in the United States?”
“No,” replied Dr. Sackler, 76, weak.
“Does the Sackler family have any responsibility for the opioid crisis in the United States?”
“Is Purdue Pharma responsible for the opioid crisis in the US?”
More consequently: “No.”
Dr. Sackler, perhaps the most famous of the Sacklers billionaire, who for nearly 20 years was the family member who played the primary role in launching his signature prescription pain reliever, OxyContin, seldom videoconferenced Wednesday before a judge holding the confirmatory hearing for a plan who would reorganize Purdue and resolve all lawsuits against the company and family members over their role in the opioid epidemic.
It is believed to be the first time Dr. Sackler publicly answered questions about the family’s opioid business. Similar to an expanded testimony presented to Kentucky state attorneys in 2015, Dr. Sackler presented his legal department with a testimony that was largely littered with faint or absent memories, brief statements, and distractions.
His voice was often barely audible, he apologized for his laryngitis, and occasionally appeared to be fiddling with the technology that posed annoying volume challenges and opening documents emailed to him when he testified.
While he did not provide any new insights into what is already known about the roles of Sackler’s family members in the company, his looks were remarkable for what he refused to admit.
Dr. Sackler had been called on for questioning by attorneys for states opposed to the plan, in part because they believe the Sacklers will receive extensive legal protection in return for paying $ 4.5 billion.
In a biting back and forth, Dr. Sackler, he doesn’t know how many Americans died from OxyContin. “In your role as chairman or president of an opioid company, you did not find it necessary to determine how many people died as a result of this product?” Asked Brian Edmunds, an assistant attorney general from Maryland.
“To the best of my knowledge, data is not available,” replied Dr. Sackler.
Dr. Sackler – who trained as an internist but embarked on a career as a pharmaceutical manager for the Stamford, Connecticut-based company originally owned in part by his father, Dr. Raymond Sackler – is known for throwing himself into Purdue’s operation. In a testimony on Wednesday, Dr. Sackler that he and a Purdue sales representative drove calls to doctors to increase sales. The sales force eventually focused on doctors, who tended to prescribe higher doses, said Dr. Sackler. He acknowledged that higher-dose opioids could result in higher profits for the company.
During his tenure, Purdue twice confessed to federal criminal charges related to the marketing and sale of OxyContin and settled with Kentucky.
Lawsuits against the Sacklers and Purdue received numerous emails from Dr. Sackler cited, including one from 2001 cited in a Massachusetts lawsuit. “We must take every possible means against the perpetrators,” he wrote. “You are the culprit and the problem. They are ruthless criminals. “
In 2019, the Sackler family contributed $ 75 million to Oklahoma as part of a larger settlement between the state and Purdue. In this case, as in a civil law settlement between the federal government and the Sacklers in 2020, family members did not admit any wrongdoing.
“I cannot enumerate all the settlements,” said Dr. Sackler. “There were many settlements, both private and public.”
The Maryland, Washington State, and Connecticut lawyers apparently attempted to extract such shards to put them back together, arguing that the Sacklers were deeply involved in Purdue’s business.
The settlement agreement negotiated by Purdue and the Sacklers with states, tribes, local governments and other plaintiffs would not only settle the lawsuits, but would also give the company immunity from future civil claims, a condition customarily accorded to companies emerging from bankruptcy restructuring .
But this plan would also give similar protection to the Sacklers who did not file for bankruptcy. The question of such comprehensive legal protection for the Sacklers has driven many of the remaining objections to the plan.
If Judge Robert Drain’s plan is upheld as expected by the U.S. Southern New York Bankruptcy Court at White Plains, the Sacklers will not be pursued by those who contradict the plan, let alone future litigants for Purdue – related issues.
And that ban isn’t just limited to opioid-related cases. Benjamin Higgins, an attorney for the U.S. Trustee Program, a Department of Justice unit that oversees bankruptcy cases, noted that, for example, Purdue had in recent years introduced a long-acting stimulant to treat symptoms of attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder and that if any lawsuits occurred in the In connection with this drug would be considered, the Sacklers would also be vaccinated against it.
Dr. Sackler said he was not very familiar with the details of the extensive litigation clears that are at the core of Purdue’s bankruptcy plan.
“It’s an extremely dense document,” said Dr. Sackler. “I read a page or two and realized that it would take me a lot of time.”
In accordance with the complex structure of the Sackler payments to a national opioid trust, the contributions are partly financed by the prospective sale of the various pharmaceutical companies of the family members worldwide.
“Will you personally be contributing your own assets to the settlement payments in the next nine or ten years?” Sackler was asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t think that’s decided yet.”