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OxyContin Makers Plead Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges

“The devastating ripple effect of Purdue’s actions left lives lost and others addicted,” Department of Justice says

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013 file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. On Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel said there’s no clear evidence that a reformulated version of the painkiller OxyContin designed to discourage abuse actually resulted in fewer overdoses or cases of addiction. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Purdue Pharma, the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, pleaded guilty to three federal criminal felony charges Wednesday as part of an $8.3 billion resolution

Toby Talbot/AP

Purdue Pharma, the makers of the painkiller OxyContin, pleaded guilty to three federal criminal felony charges Wednesday as part of an $8.3 billion resolution involving the pharmaceutical company at the center of the nation’s decades-long opioid epidemic.

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to are one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

According to the Department of Justice, “Purdue conspired to defraud the United States by impeding the lawful function of the DEA by representing to the DEA that Purdue maintained an effective anti-diversion program when, in fact, Purdue continued to market its opioid products to more than 100 health care providers whom the company had good reason to believe were diverting opioids and by reporting misleading information to the DEA to boost Purdue’s manufacturing quotas.”

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen.

“With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

The resolution also includes “the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. Additionally, Purdue agreed to a $2.8 billion civil settlement, while the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages; it is estimated the Sackler family withdrew $10 billion from the company between 2007 and 2017.

“This resolution closes a particularly sad chapter in the ongoing battle against opioid addiction,” Drug Enforcement Administration Assistant Administrator Tim McDermott said in a statement.

“Purdue Pharma actively thwarted the United States’ efforts to ensure compliance and prevent diversion. The devastating ripple effect of Purdue’s actions left lives lost and others addicted. DEA will continue to work tirelessly with our partners and the pharmaceutical industry to address the damage that has been done, and bring an end to this epidemic that has gripped the nation for far too long.”

Following the initial September 2019 settlement — which the company agreed to in order to avoid a court case — Purdue Pharma filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company’s owners, members of the Sackler family, dissolved Purdue Pharma and a new company formed that would continue to sell Oxycontin, with proceeds benefitting the plaintiffs via a public beneficiary company. Purdue would also donate “rescue” drugs, including several currently in development, for addiction treatment and overdose reversal.

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