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Massachusetts Sues Purdue Pharma and Sackler Family For OxyContin Profiteering Amid Opioid Crisis

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Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is suing OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, its board members and executives, including the Sackler family who owns the company.

The lawsuit was filed on June 12 on the grounds that Purdue profiteered on the state's opioid crisis. Purdue manufactures OxyContin, a prescription oxycodone used to help relieve pain in cases such as cancer.

"We found that Purdue misled doctors, patients, and the public about the real risks of their dangerous opioids including OxyContin. We also found that they did this with the oversight and direction of 16 current and former executives and directors named in our complaint," Healey said in a press conference covered by Associated Press.

This is the first time that a complaint specifically named the company's executives, as well as eight members from the three generations of the Sackler family. Purdue is also facing other lawsuits from other states and local governments.

Healey further explained that Purdue's strategy is to sell more drugs so they can make more profits, leading to more opioid overdose-related deaths.

In Defense Of The Company

In an open letter, Purdue said it is supporting the recommendations made by The President's Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis and the FDA's Opioid Action Plan. The company believes that limiting people's first opioid prescription will not end the drug abuse problem, but it will help mitigate the crisis.

Purdue further explained that the public has often interchanged the terms oxycodone and OxyContin. The latter is an extended-release oxycodone formulation that contains abuse-deterrent properties.

"Abuse by the injection, intranasal and oral routes is still possible," Purdue wrote in reference to an FDA guideline on product labels. "Because extended-release products such as OxyContin deliver the opioid over an extended period of time, there is a greater risk for overdose and death due to the larger amount of oxycodone present."

Theresa and Beverly, the widows of the brothers Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, are the ones named in the Massachusetts lawsuit. It also named three of Mortimer's children, Raymond's two sons, and Raymond's grandson. The combined net worth of all these eight Sackler family members, the majority of which came from the profits of OxyContin, is approximately $13 billion, according to Forbes.

Deaths Due To Opioid Overdose

An investigation conducted by Healey's office found that 671 people who obtained opioid prescriptions from Purdue since 2009 eventually died of an overdose.

The lawsuit contains that since May 2007, Purdue medical sales representatives have visited prescribers and pharmacists across the state over 150,000 times. The attorney general also alleged that Purdue representatives gave high-prescribing doctors gifts and money in exchange for prescribing more of the company's opioids.

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