OxyContin Maker Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty to 3 Federal Criminal Charges

Notorious OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement totaling over $8 billion dollars. The potent prescription opioid painkiller is infamous for igniting the opioid epidemic. 


Purdue Pharma will plead guilty to three counts, which include conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The arrangement does not release any of the company’s executives or owners–the incredibly wealthy Sackler family–from any criminal liability. Indeed, a criminal investigation is currently ongoing. 


The $8 billion dollar settlement is one of the most high-profile displays of justice by the federal government in their effort to hold opioid manufacturers accountable for the crisis. With almost half a million opioid-related overdose deaths in the U.S. since 2000, policy and lawmakers are desperately searching for answers. 


Read: Canada Health Minister Calls to Keep Injectable Opioid Therapy Treatment Program in Alberta Open

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Settlement Has Significant Political Implications Ahead of 2020 Elections 

This massive settlement arrives on the heels of the next U.S. presidential election, which is less than two weeks away. With COVID-19 dominating headlines, the opioid crisis has received less media attention in recent months. However, this landmark deal provides President Donald Trump’s administration a bold example of taking hard action to combat the opioid crisis. Indeed, this was one of the cornerstone promises of his early campaign.

Purdue Pharma 8 billion settlement opioid drug overdose

Purdue Admits to Impeding the DEA, Bribing Doctors and More in Settlement

Details of the settlement require Purdue to admit it impeded the Drug Enforcement Agency by falsely representing the adequate maintenance of their program to avoid drug diversion. Furthermore, they also must admit to reporting misleading information to the agency to boost their manufacturing quotas. Despite purportedly having “robust controls” to avoid opioid diversion, the company is said to have been “disregarding red flags their own systems were sending up”. The company will also admit to bribing doctors through a speaking program with the intent of having them write more prescriptions for their opioids.

Purdue Pharma 8 billion settlement opioid drug overdose

Hefty Fines and Transforming into a Public Company: A Look Ahead for Purdue 

The settlement requires PUrdue to make a direct payment to the government for $225 million, which is part of a larger $2 billion dollar criminal forfeiture. Additionally, Purdue must also pay $3.45 billion in criminal fines and almost $3 billion in damages to resolve its civil liability. The future of Purdue involves their transformation into a public benefit company, meaning it will be governed by a trust that has to balance their interests against those of the American public. It’s worth noting that the Sacklers will not be involved in the new company and part of the money from the settlement will go to aid in medically assisted treatment and other drug programs to combat the crippling opioid epidemic triggered by their unethical practices.

Purdue Pharma 8 billion settlement opioid drug overdose

Further Trials Against Additional Drugmakers on the Horizon

As illicit opioids like heroin and fentanyl continue to wreak havoc and skyrocket overdoses, public health officials are rapidly seeking effective solutions to quell this epidemic. While Purdue is certainly one of the highest profile players in the prescription opioid industry, they are far from the only one. Additional trials against other major opioid manufacturers are on the horizon and are set to resume depending on the pandemic and its restrictions. 

Purdue Pharma 8 billion settlement opioid drug overdose

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