Sackler Family to Pay $6 B. for Protections Against Opioid Liability, Court Rules

The Sackler family will pay out $6 billion to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic and give up control of their company Purdue Pharama in exchange for protection from current and future civil lawsuits against its opioid business, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled Tuesday.

Purdue, founded and owned by the Sacklers, created and sold the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin beginning in the 1990s. Purdue and the family have been accused of knowingly misleading consumers about the drug’s addictive properties, thereby directly contributing to the opioid crisis, which saw the loss of more than 564,000 people in the United States between 1999 and 2020 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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A Sackler P.A.I.N. protest at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018, with Nan Goldin at center.

In 2019, the company sought bankruptcy protection as lawsuits linked to Oxycontin piled up. In 2021, Purdue reached a deal that saw the Sacklers give up ownership of the company, which was to be restructured so that its profits would go toward fighting the opioid crisis. The Sacklers additionally would pay $4.5 billion to those efforts and, in exchange, would recieve protection from current and future civil lawsuits. That deal was eventually rejected by a U.S. district judge in December 2021 after objections from eight US states and others to the deal.

That 2021 ruling was appealed, leading to Tuesday’s landmark ruling. However, the current deal only applies to the 2nd Circuit Region of New York, Connecticut, and Vermont. There is still no national resolution.

As part of the current settlement, Purdue will be restructured into Knoa Pharma, which will be overseen by a public board and manufacture medications for addiction reversal and treatment, as well as continue to produce drugs including OxyContin. The company’s profits will still go towards fighting the opioid crisis. The Sacklers are also required to pay $5.5 to $6 billion from the sale of their international drug companies.

Additionally, any organization or institution in the United States can remove the Sackler name from buildings, programs, and scholarships as long as the family is notified and not publicly disparaged.

“Our focus going forward is to deliver billions of dollars of value for victim compensation, opioid crisis abatement, and overdose rescue medicines,” the company said in a statement. “Our creditors understand the plan is the best option to help those who need it most, the most fair and expeditious way to resolve the litigation, and the only way to deliver billions of dollars in value specifically to fund opioid crisis abatement efforts.” 

Members of the Sackler family have been major funders of some of the world’s largest and most prestigious art institutions. Most recently, Oxford University cut ties with the family among a number of others over the last few years.

Photographer and activist Nan Goldin, who became addicted to the drug, has been at the forefront of protesting against the Sacklers.

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