Calif. opioid case adds 8 Sackler family members as defendents


Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in downtown Stamford, April 2, 2019 in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

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LOS ANGELES — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amended complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court to add eight additional members of the family that founded pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma as defendants in the state’s case alleging that misleading marketing and sales practices played a major role in contributing to the nationwide opioid crisis.

The revised lawsuit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court now names Beverly Sackler, Jonathan Sackler, David Sackler, Marianna Sackler, Theresa Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Dr. Kathe Sackler and Mortimer D.A. Sackler.

The original lawsuit was filed June 3 and named Dr. Richard Sackler as the only individual family defendant.

The suit alleges Purdue created a public nuisance through deceptive sales and marketing practices, misleading healthcare providers and patients about the addictive nature of opioids and contributing to an excess supply of opioids in the market.

The amended complaint alleges the Sackler family contributed to, and profited from, the harmful impact of opioids.

“Fighting the opioid crisis and holding accountable the individuals who helped fuel it remains a serious priority for the state of California,” Becerra said. “Purdue and the Sackler family must face the consequences for their harmful, reckless actions.”

The lawsuit alleges that Purdue misleadingly introduced OxyContin into the market as a safe and effective treatment for chronic, non-cancer pain. As early as February 1997, Purdue and some of the Sackler defendants knew that oxycodone-containing drugs like OxyContin were among the most abused opioids in the United States, yet between 1996 and 2002, Purdue more than doubled its sales force and sales soared from $48 million to nearly $2 billion, the suit states.

The sales were made by representatives falsely promoting OxyContin as a drug that was neither addictive nor subject to withdrawal symptoms, while minimizing its potential for abuse and addiction, according to the suit.

By March 2000, Purdue was aware of specific reports made to the company about the abuse and diversion of OxyContin occurring in communities across the United States, the suit alleges.

In 2007, Purdue and a number of its executives pleaded guilty to felony misbranding of OxyContin, admitting that they illegally promoted OxyContin. Purdue agreed to pay over $600 million in criminal and civil penalties, fines, and forfeitures.

But Purdue continued its allegedly deceptive marketing and promoting of OxyContin and revenues amounted to $3 billion in 2010, and as much as $1.8 billion as recently as 2017, according to the suit. The lawsuit further alleges that as part of its aggressive deceptive marketing campaign, Purdue distributed literature and other materials that misrepresented the safety of its opioid products to healthcare professionals and patients in California and elsewhere.

Purdue sales representatives further pushed physicians to prescribe opioids to trusted patients and implied that healthcare professionals could screen out potential addicts through urine tests and patient contracts, according to the suit.

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