The Department of Justice on Wednesday announced a global resolution of its criminal and civil investigations into the opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP (Purdue), and a civil resolution of its civil investigation into individual shareholders from the Sackler family. The resolutions with Purdue are subject to the approval of the bankruptcy court, and came under fire by several lawmakers involved in years of testimony about the human impact of oxycodone on constituents, including U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH.
Although the $8 billion settlement is supposed to go to those in need of treatment, it is largely a symbolic settlement, as the pharmaceutical company’s assets are currently tied up in bankruptcy court.
“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen. “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement re-affirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multi-pronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”
“Today’s resolution is the result of years of hard work by the FBI and its partners to combat the opioid crisis in the U.S.,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office. “Purdue, through greed and violation of the law, prioritized money over the health and well-being of patients. The FBI remains committed to holding companies accountable for their illegal and inexcusable activity and to seeking justice, on behalf of the victims, for those who contributed to the opioid crisis.”
Reaction from Hassan in a statement released jointly with Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) expressed frustration at a “rushed settlement,” and addressed what they see as shortcomings of the deal.
“The Department of Justice owes it to the millions of Americans affected by the opioid epidemic to hold Purdue Pharma and its leadership accountable. While we are still reviewing all the details, a rushed settlement with a company that cannot pay and a family that has shielded itself from the reach of U.S. law will not do enough to prevent future bad actors from repeating Purdue’s deadly behavior.
“Attorneys General from 25 states have objected to the proposal endorsed by this agreement to turn Purdue Pharma into a public benefit corporation, potentially putting state and local governments into the troubling position of overseeing a company that sells opioids. It also short-circuits the process of justice, releasing the Sacklers from federal civil liability even though the investigation into their misconduct is ongoing. And criminal charges against the company alone do not suffice; the Department must also hold to account the executives who directed Purdue’s scheme.
“Big questions remain about this settlement: Will the Department pursue criminal charges against the Sackler family and Purdue executives? Will the Department do more to ensure big, powerful drug makers don’t place profit over American lives? Will the Department provide Congress the information about previous settlement negotiations with Purdue, which we have requested repeatedly and still have not received? Those are important questions the Department needs to answer.”
Hassan and Whitehouse repeatedly asked the Department for the 2006 prosecution memo and related information about the Department’s choice not to proceed with stronger action against Purdue and its owners, the Sackler family. The Department continues to refuse the senators’ requests.