Sometimes, the best way to push addictive pharmaceuticals on an unwitting public is to lie, lie, lie. That’s the key takeaway from a slew of emails that were recently released by the state of Massachusetts in response to a complaint filed against Purdue Pharma, the exclusive manufacturer of the opioid OxyContin.
After hearing that 59 people died in one state in 2001, Richard Sackler, whose family founded and maintains a majority stake in Purdue Pharma, replied that those numbers were “not too bad,” according to the released emails. That same year, Sackler suggested that Purdue Pharma staff blame patients for the rising death toll. Overdoses from opioid pharmaceuticals resulted in 47,600 deaths in this country in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The emails are probably music to the ears of dozens of Texas law firms currently suing or preparing to sue Purdue Pharma, select drug distributors and doctors, and other drug manufacturers. The lawsuits, including one recently filed in Johnson County by Dallas-based Fears Nachawati Law Firm (“Suing Big Pharma,” Jan 9, 2019), allege that drug manufacturers knowingly misled the public about the potential risks of taking opioids.
We spoke with Fears Nachawati partner Matt McCarley about what his firm’s pending lawsuit could mean for the Sackler family. McCarley said he’d be surprised if Purdue Pharma survives the current wave of litigation. The pharmaceutical company has weathered heavy legal blows before, but it hasn’t faced anything like the thousands of lawsuits currently on the docket across the United States. In 2006, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to felony charges of “misbranding” OxyContin and subsequently paid $600 million in fines.
Whether or not Purdue Pharma pays for the treatment of OxyContin addicts (as McCarley’s lawsuit requests), McCarley said his law firm plans to see the lawsuit through. Purdue Pharma has “dirty hands in this,” he told us. “It remains to be seen if they stay in business.”