Long insulated by their philanthropy, the Sackler family faces a growing backlash over the role of their company, Purdue Pharma, in spawning the opioid epidemic that has killed hundreds of thousands of people. ProPublica led this overdue reckoning. In a series of articles based on secret emails and documents obtained by reporter David Armstrong, we exposed the family’s participation in the aggressive marketing of Purdue's potent painkiller, OxyContin. ProPublica revealed Richard Sackler's backing of a company plan to mislead doctors about the strength of the drug, and ran a video of his deposition--the first chance for the public to see a family member questioned under oath. ProPublica also showed that the family tried to profit from treating the opioid addiction it fostered, and that OxyContin had a larger share of the opioid market than the company claimed.
Downplaying its role in the opioid epidemic, Purdue Pharma has embraced a federal statistic showing it was a minor player in the pain pill market. But when we took drug potency into account, Purdue’s importance soared.
Sackler testified in 2015 in a lawsuit brought by Kentucky against his family’s company, Purdue Pharma, which makes the painkiller OxyContin. We published the transcript in February. Now you can see the video.
As OxyContin addiction spurred a national nightmare, a member of the family that has reaped billions of dollars from the painkiller boasted that sales exceeded his “fondest dreams,” according to a secret court document obtained by ProPublica.
Secret portions of a lawsuit allege that Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, considered capitalizing on the addiction treatment boom — while going to extreme lengths to boost sales of its controversial opioid.
A little-known court document sheds light on the family feud over the multibillion-dollar painkiller’s association with the opioid crisis.