The Sackler family, owners of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma that manufactures the opioid painkiller OxyContin, quietly routed hundreds of millions of dollars out of the company and into personal offshore accounts, the state of New York alleges in a lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court Thursday. The allegations amount to a systematic fraud perpetrated by eight members of the Sackler family named in the suit, as well as major pharmaceutical distributors that enabled pharmacies to get around their monthly opioid limits.
“[The suit] seeks to claw back funds that it alleges were transferred from Purdue Pharma to private or offshore accounts held by family members in an effort to shield the assets from litigation; to order the Sacklers to return any transferred assets; and to restrain them from disposing of any property,” the New York Times reports. “The New York lawsuit alleges that Sackler family members abolished quarterly reports, insisted that numbers be recounted only orally to board members, and voted to pay themselves millions of dollars, often through offshore companies.
From the Times:
[The suit] further charges that in 2007, while Purdue was being investigated by federal prosecutors, the family created a new company to sell opioids, called Rhodes, which a former Purdue official said was specifically set up as a “landing pad” for the Sacklers because of the crisis surrounding OxyContin, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also goes well beyond other cases in spelling out in granular detail how pharmaceutical distributors played a role in the opioid epidemic by ignoring blatant “red flags” that indicated mountains of opioids were being diverted for illegal use.
A spokesman for the Sackler family told the Times the allegations were “a misguided attempt to place blame where it does not belong for a complex public health crisis.”