(CBS News) — Only on “CBS This Morning,” we’re hearing from the Massachusetts attorney general, who blames the founding family of a pharmaceutical company for helping create the opioid drug crisis. Almost 400,000 people died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC.
In a lawsuit, the state targets Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family. It alleges they are “personally responsible” for deceptively selling OxyContin. Purdue Pharma called the accusations “a rush to vilify” the drugmaker.
As CBS News’ Tony Dokoupil reports, there’s a lot in the lawsuit that’s still redacted. Lawyers for Purdue plan to argue on Friday that it should stay that way. The attorney general said this is already the most complete picture to date of how the opioid crisis began, and why the Sackler family itself should be held accountable.
Jonathan Burke said his battle with addiction began 11 years ago, with a dirt bike accident and a two-month prescription of OxyContin. Just two weeks later, he was hooked.
“I’ll be 29 on Friday and didn’t think I’d make it to 25, to be honest,” Burke said. “The way that your brain becomes re-hardwired after an addiction is just absolutely insane.”
Burke later turned to illegal drugs and ended up stealing to fund his habit. “It literally damaged every relationship with every family member, friend, person I acquired in my life,” he said.
Burke’s home state of Massachusetts is one of 36 states now suing Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of downplaying the dangers of OxyContin. In a 2007 federal settlement, the company admitted to falsely selling the drug as “less addictive” than rival products. The company paid $630 million in fines.
But Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said the dishonesty continued.
In her lawsuit, she names eight members of the family that own Purdue Pharma, alleging they “micromanaged” a “deceptive sales campaign.” In the conclusion to the complaint, Healey said the Sackler family used the power at their disposal to engineer an opioid crisis.
“It’s pretty reprehensible conduct,” Healey said.
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