Victims of opioid abuse and their families confronted family members behind OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma on Thursday, sharing their immeasurable loss and pain caused by the highly addictive painkillers.
The emotional hearing came a day after a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a settlement requiring Purdue Pharma and the Sackler families to pay up to $6 billion to states, individual claimants and to fight the opioid crisis.
“I’m outraged that you didn’t face the crisis you created,” said Kay Scarpone, whose son Joseph Scarpone, a former Marine, lost to addiction when he was 25.
The 26 speakers at the Zoom hearing came from 19 states, attorney Arik Preis said in court.
“They are being judged by greater powers than this justice system and this bankruptcy court,” said Ryan Hampton, who is recovering from decades of opioid addiction.
“No matter how much money you pay to settle, or how many millions your family has spent on its reputation, the Sackler family legacy can never be changed. You will be remembered for who you are because you shattered generations of promises.”
Kristy Nelson played a recording of the harrowing 911 call she made when she found her son dead in his room after an overdose in 2009.
Nelson named Dr. Richard Sackler — who served as interim director, co-chairman and president of Purdue Pharma between 1990 and 2018 — the scum of the earth.
“You and your family are no better than the heroin dealers on the street corner. The only difference is you wear a suit and tie and you sell your heroin in pill form from your fancy high-rise offices or your mansions around the world,” Nelson said.
Wendy Olsen, a Wisconsin resident, spoke about her elderly father’s oxycontin addiction after surgery at a hospital — an addiction he’s finding difficult to shake despite being a doctor and retired US Army veteran.
“It is important to me that our testimonial be made public to emphasize the fact that this evil pill has not only taken over a US Army veteran, but also a doctor who was woefully unarmed to protect himself,” said Olsen.
“He’s proud to tell me just yesterday that drug salesmen tried to get Oxycontin into his pediatric office in the ’90s. But he refused. At least then he refused. That’s how evil and powerful was the influence of your products… Sackler (family), on every one of us, regardless of status, class or rank.”
Olsen’s son Danny briefly shared his perspective on caring for his 88-year-old grandfather.
“How many grandchildren do you know who have dealt with a beloved grandparent in rehab?” he asked.
Members of the Sackler families were required to attend the virtual hearing. They weren’t allowed to answer when sometimes angry and tearful families spoke of shattered lives, suicides, lost careers and the haunting cry of a newborn in rehab.
As the hearing began Thursday morning, the judge confirmed that David Sackler and Theresa Sackler were in the videoconference while Richard Sackler was on the phone and viewing the video.
The new agreement, reached earlier this month after eight states and the District of Columbia appealed an earlier agreement, does not protect the Sackler families from criminal liability.
“No comparison will ever come close to addressing the extent of the suffering and damage caused by Purdue and the Sackler family,” Tong said in a statement. “But when we reached that $6 billion settlement, we realized we couldn’t stop this process forever for the victims and our sister states.”
“But when we reached that $6 billion settlement, we realized we couldn’t stop this process forever for the victims and our sister states.”
Tong added that there will be a hearing Thursday that will “give victims and survivors an opportunity to speak directly to the Sacklers and share the damage and destruction they have caused.”
“We’re not done fighting for justice against the addiction industry,” Tong said.
As part of the agreement, the Sackler families allow any institution or organization nationwide to remove the Sackler name from physical facilities and academic, medical, and cultural programs, grants, and endowments, so long as the Sacklers receive first notice and make public statements disclosing the name Distance does not “denigrate” the family.
In a prepared statement, the Sackler families said they are “delighted to have reached an agreement with additional states that will allow very significant additional resources to reach people and communities in need.”
“The families have consistently reiterated that an agreement is by far the best way to help resolve a serious and complex public health crisis. While the families acted lawfully in all respects, they sincerely regret that OxyContin, a prescription drug that continues to help people living with chronic pain, unexpectedly became part of an opioid crisis that has brought grief and loss to far too many families and communities. ‘ it added.
In a statement to CNN last week, Purdue Pharma also said they were pleased with the settlement.
US Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain tentatively approved a $6 billion settlement reached last week between Purdue Pharma and the Sackler families with eight states and the District of Columbia.
Drain issued its decision Wednesday during a hearing to approve the parties’ motion for approval of the settlement terms.
This is a gradual step, but there is no set end date for Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy case.
The final resolution depends on the conclusion of the case, which remains largely dependent on a fight over comprehensive liability protections for the Sacklers and the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma affiliates included in the latest version of the reorganization plan overturned by a judge. This issue and others remain to be negotiated.
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to clarify that Sackler’s family members may still be prosecuted.