Delaware Public Media

Delaware sues family that owns Purdue Pharma

Sep 9, 2019

Delaware’s Department of Justice is suing members of the Sackler family, the founders and owners of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, for their role in the state’s opioid crisis.

The suit was filed Monday in Superior Court. It alleges the Sacklers concealed the risks of treating chronic pain with opioids like OxyContin in a massive, decades-long marketing campaign. 

It blames the family for creating the epidemic which led to just under 700 prescription opioid-related deaths in Delaware between 2007 and 2016. It also holds them culpable for at least $100 million lost annually from state resources in healthcare, criminal justice, social services and education systems. 

It points out the Sackler family have paid themselves billions in Purdue pharma profits. 

Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings says the Sacklers have blood on their hands.

“They issued literature that downplayed the addictive qualities of OxyContin. They looked at sales regularly. They hired people to market this product and fired people if they didn’t meet their quota--all the time knowing they were creating an epidemic,” Jennings told Delaware Public Media Monday.

The state already has a case pending in Superior Court against Purdue pharma and a list of other companies in the pharmaceutical supply chain for fueling Delaware’s opioid crisis. That complaint was filed early last year.

“We have been involved in discussions. Some states’ Attorneys General have discussed a potential settlement and we are certainly aware, but no terms have been reached and we are continuing to pursue accountability through the courts,” said Jennings.

From 2006 to 2012, drug manufacturers sold more than 276 million painkillers to First State pharmacies. The state’s overdose rate has risen for the past six years with 400 people dying last year in Delaware from opioid overdoses. Nearly 200 Delawarean have died of suspected overdoses so far this year.