The late justice served for America's opioid crisis
The opioid crisis continues to grow, and the company that produced Oxycontin is finally facing consequences for creating it.
The opioid crisis has led to the death of 470,000 people since 2000. Half a million people fell victim to prescription drug use and the country continues to feel the repercussions. Now, Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin will plead guilty to three criminal charges resulting in an $8 billion settlement for its involvement in the creation of the crisis.
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, it was announced by the Justice Department that Purdue Pharma is set to pay this lump sum. However, the settlement did not disclose the names any of the company’s executives or owners.
A criminal investigation continues searching for criminal liability, but it will be a long time before we see anyone individually held accountable.
Experts say OxyContin was the prescription painkiller that helped kick off the opioid epidemic in the U.S. Purdue has pleaded guilty to three charges including conspiracy to defraud the United State and violation federal anti-kickback laws.
The nationwide tragedy is being overshadowed by the elections, which at another time would have been blown up in media outlets everywhere. Purdue Pharma is the most high-profile settlement achieved by the federal government over a drugmaker in its history, but it does not nearly cover enough of the damage.
If this sounds alarming, it’s because it is. Purdue Pharma is responsible for the opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has been plaguing the country since the beginning of the millennium.
The Sackler family were the owners of the company, but no longer serve as members of the board.
Steve Miller, the chairman of the company’s board since 2018 expressed sorrow at the company’s role in the crisis.
“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” he said.
But those deep regrets do not undo the harm.
The opioid crisis has been felt throughout the millennial generation most, and two counties in New Jersey have been considered the epicenter. According to the CDC Wonder, drug and opioid related overdose deaths have been on an uptick since 2014.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania there are similar numbers. In 2019, 1,150 people died from drug overdoses in the city, with over 80% of those being opioid related.
In 2020, the pandemic exacerbated those numbers.
Though the problem is put in our faces everyday, in the thick of the crisis, it extends far beyond Pennsylvania and New Jersey’s borders, with rises in addiction and opioid-related deaths jumping nationwide.
Though the deal comes days ahead of the presidential election, it has still been put on the back burner.
Part of the settlement includes Big Pharma admitting it impeded the Drug Enforcement Administration by demonstrating a successful program to avoid drug diversion and reporting information that was misleading.
Thirty-eight members of Congress wrote a statement on the settlement:
“Millions of American families impacted by the opioid epidemic are looking to you and your Department for justice. Justice for the sleepless nights spent worrying about sons and daughters trapped in the grip of substance use disorder, justice for the jobs lost and the lives ruined, and justice for the lives of loved ones lost to overdoses. If the only practical consequence of your Department’s investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law.”
Moreover the different billions of dollars the company will pay in fines, in addition to the millions the Sackler family will pay, no amount of money will replace the damage created.