Purdue Pharma - Evil WITHIN Our Borders

Lawsuits Lay Bare Sackler Family’s Role in Opioid Crisis

While debate rages about border control as the main danger to America’s future, the real threat unfolds before our eyes – right under our noses. And shame on our collective selves for letting the cancer spread so far! Shame on our Presidents for not making it their number one domestic policy priority over past years, as the blight has grown and multiplied! Hello people!  We have to wake-up. We need to get after all these Presidential hopefuls, not to mention the current president. Why are we wasting our breadth with all this rhetoric about drug dealers coming over our borders, while at the same time allowing the largest and most successful drug cartel in history, to operate in open daylight for years, right here in our own front yard? Yes, there is a threat from letting the wrong people in. Yes, our policies and systems need updating, but here’s the real scoop:

  • The opioid epidemic right here in the United States of America, is devastating this country!
  • Over-doses have passed car crashes and gun violence to become the leading cause of death for Americans under 55.
  • More people have died from the opioid epidemic than died from H.I.V., or the combined wars in Vietnam & Iraq.
NY Times Stats on Deaths by Opiods
NY Times Graph on death from Opioids

 

Please watch this eclectic and provocative film on opioid addiction by the NY Times here.

Why are we deploying troops anywhere else in the world when the real war is right here, and operating like normal, everyday people and  companies, adhering to proper accounting and compliance standards to cover-up their real activities and intensions. Just normal people supporting their families. If we thought Wells Fargo was a revelation (and continues to be) in corporate misdoings or that Volkswagon was the epitome of corporate corruption, think again. Because they’ve got nothing on the Sackler Family and their partners in crime. The ones who package and prescribe, and sell and distribute, the epidemic in death that we’re experiencing as a nation right now!

If you think I am over-stating this plague at our doorstep, then tell me what you think of these numbers, from the recent NYTimes expose? I can assure you this is no April Fool’s Day joke either. The only fools are the ones we see in the mirror every day, if we don’t get after this now!

New statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that:

  • Drug overdoses killed more than 70,000 Americans in 2017 – a record.
  • Overdose deaths are higher than deaths from H.I.V. – car crashes or gun violence at their peaks.
  • The data also shows that the increased deaths correspond strongly with the use of synthetic opioids known as fentanyl.
  • Since 2013, the number of overdose deaths associated with fentanyl and similar drugs has grown to more than 28,000, from 3,000.
  • Deaths involving fentanyl increased more than 45 percent in 2017 alone.

The recent increases in drug overdose deaths have been so steep, that they have actually contributed to reductions in this country’s life expectancy over the last three year.  This is a pattern unprecedented since World War II. Moreover, life expectancy at birth has fallen by nearly four months. As we speak today, drug overdoses are the leading cause of death for adults under 55.

In the past, I’ve written about Eliot Spitzer’s and Dean Skellos’s mis-adventures, but they are of little consequence compared to the enormous extent of this evil juggernaut. What makes it worse, is that they are right there in front of us – appearing to be legitimate pharmaceutical companies – with Boards of Directors and regulatory over-sight. They are licensed physicians who have taken the “Hippocratic Oath” – “That the first duty of a doctor is to “do no harm,” but rather “to treat the ill to the best of their ability!” These are the ones, the murderers among us!

Now we truly do need leadership in this country! Plus an army to deploy and hunt down the enablers, and everyone who has had a hand in this.  The true parallel here is neither Eliot nor Dean. In fact, the only parallel to the magnitude of this challenge, is the oldest, the most cleverly conceived & executed, the master of cover-up and obfuscation, and hands-down the most successful and prosperous criminal enterprise in the history of the world, namely the Roman Catholic Church!

I predict that this Pope will fall, along with many more of his cohorts before its over. He reveals himself at every turn to be a disgraceful conniver. The good ones will survive and go on, and justifiably so considering the legions of sincere Catholics who just want their cherished, spiritual retreats from the world.  It will go on, but in a much-changed version.

But those Sacklers! Just as vicious, smart and clever in how they prey on their victims, then cover their trail, as any Pope or Cardinal or Parish Priest! Nobody’s fool those Sacklers! They’ve been in the cross-hairs of justice before, but slipped away with their legal, corporate, subterfuge. Even now as the fortunes of their cherished Purdue weaken, their new corporate vehicle Rhodes, prospers. In fact, by 2016 Rhodes already had a larger market share of the American prescription opioid market than Purdue.

Only now is the fog rising and the picture coming into focus of the havoc and devastation wreaked by the Sacklers, their cohorts and their OxyContin schemes. Their real goal? They want to wrench the title of “Worst Blight in the History of Mankind” from the Pope, and his fellow criminals. If left unchecked they just may be successful, and we simply cannot let that happen! How many more must die these excruciating deaths? And I assure you, they are long and drawn-out and excruciating!

Yes, there is a mountain of litigation piling up against  the Sacklers. According to the NY Times, there are  currently 1,600 opioids cases being overseen by a Federal  Court Judge in Cleveland.That sounds really bad, but who’s to say there won’t be a massive settlement of some kind that includes them all in one shot. It would be another crime against humanity if it allowed the family members to escape the 50 year sentences they so rightly deserve, just to continue in their deadly pursuits.

NG – No Good! The cancer must go! This war is on and its right here in front of us! And it needs a quarterback who can look at all the pieces and is smart and experienced enough to deal with the subterfuge, the deceit, and the evil genius that has created this unbelievable wreckage!

Hey, I just thought of something! I hear there’s an out-of-work Special Prosecutor out there, who just came on the job market! Why not let him keep his team together and take on the evil opioid empire!

In my youth I’d rush home to catch that day’s episode of “Flash Gordon vs. Ming The Merciless!”  Why not – “Flash Mueller vs. the OxyContin Murderers?”

Come on Donald…bring back the troops! We need our army here! And wouldn’t it be something if YOU hired Mueller to root out this evil! Oh…it boggles the mind to consider…!

See the full NY Times Article below.

By Danny HakimRoni Caryn Rabin and William K. Rashbaum

April 1 2019

The Sacklers had a new plan.

It was 2014, and the company the family had controlled for two generations, Purdue Pharma, had been hit with years of investigations and lawsuits over its marketing of the highly addictive opioid painkiller OxyContin, at one point pleading guilty to a federal felony and paying more than $600 million in criminal and civil penalties.

Purdue Pharma - Evil Within The Borders
Richard Sackler

But as the country’s addiction crisis worsened, the Sacklers spied another business opportunity. They could increase their profits by selling treatments for the very problem their company had helped to create: addiction to opioids.

Details of the effort, named Project Tango, have come to light in lawsuits filed by the attorneys general of Massachusetts and New York. Together, the cases lay out the extensive involvement of a family that has largely escaped personal legal consequences for Purdue Pharma’s role in an epidemic that has led to hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths in the past two decades.

The filings cite numerous records, emails and other documents showing that members of the family continued to push aggressively to expand the market for OxyContin and other opioids for years after the company admitted in a 2007 plea deal that it had misrepresented the drug’s addictive qualities and potential for abuse.

The business potential of adding addiction treatment to the mix was illustrated in internal company charts and diagrams.

“Pain treatment and addiction are naturally linked,” one Project Tango document, included in the New York complaint, said. It depicted a big blue funnel. The fat end was labeled “pain treatment”; the narrow end was labeled “opioid addiction treatment.”

The company, the document said, could make money at both ends of the funnel as an “end-to-end pain provider.” Dr. Kathe Sackler, one of the eight family members sitting on Purdue’s board, instructed employees to devote “immediate attention” to the effort, according to an email included in the Massachusetts filing.

The New York complaint contained a map that it said Purdue staff prepared for the Sacklers in 2010 showing regional concentrations of OxyContin abuse.
The New York complaint contained a map that it said Purdue staff prepared for the Sacklers in 2010 showing regional concentrations of OxyContin abuse.

The two lawsuits are part of a burst of recent litigation that has taken aim at the Sacklers, a far-flung billionaire family that has a network of trusts and companies in the United States and abroad. Their philanthropic gifts have built namesake wings housing the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and oriental antiquities at the Louvre in Paris, as well as a library at the University of Oxford and a scientific institute at Columbia University.

In addition to New York and Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Utah have filed suit against members of the family. Last month, a coalition of more than 500 counties, cities and Native American tribes named the Sacklers in a case in the Southern District of New York, bringing the family into a bundle of 1,600 opioids cases being overseen by a federal court judge in Cleveland.

(The various legal claims also identify many other manufacturers, distributors and pharmacy chains as bearing responsibility for the epidemic.)

Purdue Pharma - Evil Within The Borders
Kathe Sackler, left, and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, her sister. Credit Bill Cunningham/NYT

The suits are not only an effort to get at the Sacklers’ personal fortunes — estimated by Forbes to be $13 billion — but to expose the extent to which the Sacklers themselves have been calling the shots.

“If these allegations against the Sacklers are proven to be correct, that could dramatically change the potential reach of where the litigation goes to collect funds on behalf of the cities and states that are so desperately trying to get money to deal with the opioid crisis,” said Adam Zimmerman, an expert on complex litigation at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

In a joint statement to The New York Times, representatives of the eight Sackler family members named as defendants in the New York and Massachusetts cases said the lawsuits were “filled with claims that are demonstrably false and unsupportable by the actual facts.” The statement also contended that the claims would be refuted by the family’s response this week to the Massachusetts lawsuit.

The statement said the lawsuits “ignore the fact that the Sackler family has long been committed to initiatives that prevent abuse and addiction,” citing what it characterized as a philanthropic donation from the family to an addiction research and treatment center in Tulsa, Okla. In fact, the $75 million contribution, to be made over five years, was a condition of the court-approved settlement of an opioid lawsuit brought by the Oklahoma attorney general against Purdue.

Regarding Project Tango, a separate statement from some of the Sacklers named in the suits said that “no board member proposed Tango, or authored any documents in support of it.”

Purdue Pharma - Evil Within The Borders
Rhodes Pharmaceuticals

Purdue, for its part, said in a court filing in Massachusetts this year that it “neither created nor caused the opioid epidemic” there and in a statement last week said the company and its former directors “vigorously deny” the New York claims.

Prescription opioids are Food and Drug Administration-approved medications that have legitimate uses for certain patients with advanced cancer or short-term severely acute pain, and are still prescribed, despite limited evidence, for some patients with chronic pain.

A central concern of the investigations and legal cases against Purdue Pharma over the years, including the 2007 federal investigation, has been whether the company, its executives and owners were aware in the late 1990s that OxyContin was being abused. The new lawsuits are notable for the detail they provide about the family’s own continued push to sell opioids in more recent years, as the opioid epidemic became a full-blown national crisis.

In 2009, two years after the federal guilty plea, Mortimer D.A. Sackler, a board member, demanded to know why the company wasn’t selling more opioids, email traffic cited by Massachusetts prosecutors showed.

Theresa Sackler Credit David M. Benett/Getty Images

In 2011, as states looked for ways to curb opioid prescriptions, family members peppered the sales staff with questions about how to expand the market for the drugs. Mortimer asked if they could sell a generic version of OxyContin in order to “capture more cost sensitive patients,” according to one email. Kathe, his half sister, suggested studying patients who had switched to OxyContin to see if they could find patterns that could help them win new customers, according to court filings in Massachusetts.

The family’s statement said they were just acting as responsible board members, raising questions about “business issues that were highly relevant to doctors and patients.”

In July 2011, Mortimer and Kathe’s cousin Dr. Richard Sackler, who had stepped down as Purdue’s president several years earlier but remained an influential board member, went into the field with a sales representative to promote opioids to doctors, though some in the company were concerned that his involvement could run afoul of regulators, according to documents in the Massachusetts case.

When he returned, he argued in an email to Purdue’s vice president for sales that a legally required warning about opioids wasn’t needed, and that it “implies a danger of untoward reactions and hazards that simply aren’t there.”

(The family’s statement disputed that, saying that Richard supported accurate labeling, and merely questioned where on the label the warning should appear. The statement also said he had not been out in the field with sales representatives since well before the launch of OxyContin, in 1996.)

In 2014, Raymond Sackler, now deceased, sent three other family members a confidential memo about Purdue’s strategy for placing patients on high doses of opioids for extended periods of time. The memo noted that doctors had argued against the practice, but that Purdue had beaten back efforts to impose caps on doses, according to the Massachusetts complaint.

The next year, Jonathan Sackler, then a board member, sought information about how public health campaigns to curb opioid addiction would affect OxyContin sales. In 2017, he pushed to develop a new opioid, and asked the staff to present a plan at the next Purdue board meeting.

It was Arthur Sackler, a psychiatrist and pharmaceutical marketing guru who helped pioneer the infomercial, who started the family business dynasty. In 1952, he and his two younger brothers, Mortimer and Raymond (who were also psychiatrists and who have since died), bought a small company called Purdue Frederick. Their first products included laxatives and a prescription earwax remover, as recounted in the book “Pain Killer” by Barry Meier, a former New York Times reporter.

Jonathan Sackler Credit Sylvain Gaboury/PatrickMcmullan.com

The sprawling family today is hardly monolithic. Arthur’s branch has not been involved in Purdue for many years, and one of his children, Elizabeth A. Sackler, has called Purdue Pharma’s role in the opioid crisis “morally abhorrent.” But reporting published last year by ProPublica and The Atlantic suggested that Arthur’s side of the family may have reaped some financial benefit from Purdue after OxyContin hit the market.

The lawsuits brought by the attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts, Letitia James and Maura Healey, named eight Sackler family members: Kathe, Mortimer, Richard, Jonathan and Ilene Sackler Lefcourt — children of either Mortimer or Raymond Sackler — along with Theresa Sackler, the elder Mortimer’s widow; Beverly Sackler, Raymond’s widow; and David Sackler, a grandson of Raymond.

Purdue’s business was fundamentally changed after the F.D.A. approved OxyContin in 1995. The company marketed the drug as a long-acting painkiller that was less addictive than shorter-acting rivals like Percocet and Vicodin, a strategy aimed at reducing the stigma attached to opioids among doctors.

The court filings detailed a multi-pronged approach used by the pharmaceutical industry at that time to reshape public perceptions about pain and chip away at physicians’ reluctance to prescribe opioids, long known to be addictive, by describing an “epidemic” of untreated pain affecting 100 million Americans.

 

A bent heroin spoon, built by Domenic Esposito to protest Purdue’s role in fomenting the opioid crisis, in front of Purdue’s headquarters in June 2018.CreditGregg Vigliotti for The NY Times

Manufacturers funded “front groups” that were “disguised as ‘unbiased’ sources of cutting-edge medical research and information,” according to the New York attorney general’s office, ostensibly to educate the public about chronic pain and the benefits of opioids. Physicians were paid as consultants to further spread their message. The companies claimed that opioids were safer than high doses of acetaminophen and other anti-inflammatory agents and that there was a minuscule risk of addiction.

At Purdue, sales representatives focused on doctors who were high-volume opioid prescribers, as well as inexperienced providers and primary care physicians who knew little about pain management, encouraging them to prescribe higher and higher doses for longer stretches of time, according to the court filings. Sales representatives could earn tens of thousands of dollars in bonuses and were rewarded with trips to tropical islands.

Since OxyContin came on the market, more than 200,000 Americans have died of overdoses related to prescription opioids. As reports of overdoses grew, Richard Sackler urged the company to blame the patients. “We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” he wrote in a 2001 email disclosed in documents filed in the Massachusetts case. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”

That year, after a federal prosecutor highlighted 59 OxyContin-related deaths in one state, Mr. Sackler wrote: “This is not too bad. It could have been far worse.”

Mortimer D.A. SacklerCreditPatrick McMullan, via Getty Images

The same year Purdue lawyers negotiated the federal guilty plea, the Sacklers quietly formed a new company to sell generic opioids, called Rhodes, according to the New York lawsuit.

“Rhodes was set up as a ‘landing pad’ for the Sackler family in 2007, to prepare for the possibility that they would need to start afresh following the crisis then engulfing OxyContin,” the suit quotes a former senior manager at Purdue as saying.

The Sacklers were intimately involved in overseeing and approving Rhodes’s activities, court records show. They saw the agendas for board of directors meetings and the financial statements. In the years that followed, Theresa, Kathe and Jonathan Sackler would serve on Rhodes’s governance committee, according to the New York lawsuit, while Kathe, Jonathan, Mortimer and David served on its business development committee.

The business operations of Rhodes, based in Rhode Island, and Purdue, based in Connecticut, were closely enmeshed. Rhodes relied on Purdue to oversee its compliance with government regulations, ensuring the quality and safety of its products, the New York lawsuit says, providing, for example, statistics and data to Rhodes’s compliance committee for review.

A “Project Tango” diagram included in the New York criminal complaint suggests that Purdue could make money from “pain treatment” as well as “opioid addiction treatment.”
Rhodes made monetary distributions to two companies that were ultimately owned by trusts set up for the Sacklers: the Rosebay Medical Company and the Beacon Company.

While the Sacklers “have reduced Purdue’s operations and size, Rhodes continues to grow and sell opioids for the benefit of the Sackler families,” the New York suit contends.

By 2016, Rhodes, though little known to the public, had a greater share of the American prescription opioid market than Purdue, according to a Financial Times analysis. Together, the companies ranked seventh in terms of the market share of opioids.

Purdue temporarily abandoned plans to pursue Project Tango in 2014, but revived the idea two years later, this time pursuing a plan to sell naloxone, an overdose-reversing drug, according to the Massachusetts filing. A few months later, in December 2016, Richard, Jonathan and Mortimer Sackler discussed buying a company that used implantable drug pumps to treat opioid addiction.

Beverly and Raymond Sackler in 2004.CreditTaco van der Eb/Hollandse Hoogte, via Redux

In recent years, the Sacklers and their companies have been developing products for opioid and overdose treatment on various tracks. Last year, Richard Sackler was awarded a patent for a version of buprenorphine, a drug that blocks opioid receptors, administered by mouth in a thin film. In March, the F.D.A. fast tracked the company’s application for an injectable drug for emergency treatment of overdoses.

Purdue has said it is taking charitable steps to curb opioid addiction, and last year donated $3.4 million to a nonprofit developing a nasal spray that uses the drug naloxone to treat opioid overdoses.

But the funnel that Purdue once described is full, and overflowing at both ends. David Sackler spent a reported $22.5 million on a Bel Air mansion last year. Mortimer’s Amagansett spread has been featured in Vogue. Theresa Sackler was made a dame and is a trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Last week, three Democratic senators from states hit hard by the opioid epidemic, Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, sent a letter to Purdue, insisting that it make a more formal commitment not to make money from the treatments.

“Indeed,” they wrote, “it is a maxim of the common law in this country that no one should be allowed to profit from his own wrongdoing.”

 

 

Alain Delaquérière contributed research.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Devastation of Opioids, Family Spied New Market

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Purdue Pharma – Evil Within Our Borders

Purdue Pharma – Evil Within Our Borders