In early 2001, Purdue Pharma LP executives discussed how to respond to abuse of the company’s five-year-old prescription painkiller OxyContin.
Richard Sackler, an owner of the powerful opioid’s maker, saw two clear groups of OxyContin users: legitimate patients and reckless criminals, according to a newly amended lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James. He objected in an internal company email to “criminal addicts…being glorified as some sort of populist victim,” the lawsuit says.
In another exchange included in the lawsuit, Mr. Sackler said: “I’ll tell you something that will totally revise your belief that addicts don’t want to be addicted. It is factually untrue. They get themselves addicted over and over again.”
When I say he has 200,000 deaths on his hands, I’m referring to the number of people who have died over the last 20 years from using prescription opioids. There’s another 200,000 who have died from using street opioids and opiates, many of whom got addicted to the pills before moving onto cheaper options like heroin and fentanyl.
These are just the fatalities. For everyone who has died there are dozens whose lives were ruined, whose brains were chained and morals were shattered.
How many of these people “wanted to be addicted”? How many of their loved ones wanted them to be addicted?
It’s true that there are some people who just want to numb everything out, either because they’re depressed or they’ve suffered trauma or they were just born that way. But what percentage of people who took a Oxy-Contin pill for the first time do you think wanted to end up a heroin addict? How many wanted to turn to prostitution or theft in order to satisfy the pain of withdrawal?
For the Sacklers, these people were supposed to be following the advice of the doctor, and there were pharmacists and drug distributors who were supposed to watch out for abuses of the system. For the Sacklers, these latter groups were a threat to sales. The doctors were deliberately given bad information. The oversight function was deliberately undermined.
And when people who took their medications for the pain suffered after injuries or surgeries and they became addicted, the Sacklers called them “glorified victims.”
This family shouldn’t just be left penniless. They should become the most indebted family in the world. They can pay restitution and instead of building libraries and sponsoring museum exhibits, they can provide the millions of beds we need to house the people struggling to stay alive because of their greed and immorality.