By Tori Bedford WGBH News Staff | October 22, 2020
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey says she plans to fight an $8 billion settlement reached Wednesday between OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma and the federal government, after the company pleaded guilty in a criminal investigation to its role in the opioid epidemic.
“No one’s going to jail, no one’s going to prison,” Healey said in an interview with GBH News Wednesday. “The Sacklers are basically able to hold on to their billions and billions of dollars, pay chump change over to the U.S. Treasury, and basically exit.”
Healey says she plans to file papers in bankruptcy court to dispute the decision, which does not affect an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2018 by Healey and attorneys general of 25 other states against the Sackler family, who operate Purdue Pharma.
“The money we recover should go directly into treatment and supporting the families who have been devastated by this opioid crisis,” Healey said. “That’s what we’re going to continue to fight for, along with fighting for the telling of the truth, the exposure about what Purdue and the Sacklers did.”
The settlement stipulates that the company be dissolved, and Purdue plead guilty to misleading marketing of opioid painkillers. Purdue also faces a $3.5 billion criminal fine, $2 billion in criminal forfeitures, and a $2.8 billion federal settlement.
But Healey suggested this deal could potentially create an opening for the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma to rebrand and create another drug company with which to manufacture OxyContin.
“As a matter of law enforcement, I don’t support the idea that our government is formed to back, and essentially become, a drug company,” Healey said. “I’m not a drug dealer, and I’m not in the business of that, and our families have paid far too high a price.”
Healey said she spoke with families who were affected by the opioid crisis on Wednesday who were “understandably upset” about the settlement and were disappointed with the Department of Justice.
“We know that they continue to pump OxyContin into communities in Massachusetts and around the state,” Healey said. “It’s really sad that here, with a second chance to do it right, the Department of Justice failed us.”
Purdue has admitted to fraudulent and illegal practices including illegally marketing opioids and bribing doctors to prescribe opioids for misuse. The company paid more than $600 million in 2007 for a separate guilty plea on similar grounds.
Healey sued Purdue Pharma and its executives last year after her office’s investigation revealed that Purdue sales representatives made 150,000 visits to medical offices between 2008 and 2018 and sold 70 million doses of opioids, generating $500 million in revenue. According to the state Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 2,000 people in Massachusetts died from opioid-related overdoses in that time.
Last week, Healey’s office read a letter to the DOJ from 25 attorneys general across the country, urging the federal government not to reach the settlement.
“We specifically told them not to do this deal, that this deal would not result in justice,” Healey said. “This is not justice or the accountability that families need.”
Healey says her statewide lawsuit will move forward regardless of whether she’s successful in opposing the settlement deal.
“It ultimately will be up to the judge to decide,” Healey said. “But I know that we will be there with families, and we will continue to fight the truth and accountability.”
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