Purdue Pharma’s former CEO, Richard Sackler, had a very low opinion of those addicted to drugs manufactured and distributed by his own company.
In emails recently unsealed by a federal court order, Richard Sackler, one of the members of the family that started the pharmaceutical giant, is in a conversation with an unnamed acquaintance.
At one point, Sackler wrote, "Abusers aren’t victims; they are the victimizers."
In another exchange, the acquaintance writes, "You know what the general ignorant public will say, do away with the drug!! Blame the manufactures (sic), Drs., pharmacist, but NEVER NEVER THE CRIMINAL, HE/SHE, (to be politically correct) is never to blame. Give me a break, lest I THROW UP! The whole thing is a sham and if people die because they abuse it then good riddance."
Richard Sackler responds: "Unfortunately, when I’m ambushed by 60 Minutes, I can’t easily get this concept across. Calling drug addicts 'scum of the earth' will guarantee that I become the poster child for liberals who want to do just want (sic) to distribute the blame to someone else, as you say."
The documents are part of the lawsuit brought by Connecticut and other states, alleging that Purdue Pharma is responsible for the opioid epidemic, arguing that the company knew its drugs were addictive, and that the company downplayed that fact, insisting on peddling the drugs to doctors and clinics around the country.
Purdue Pharma has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
“What these emails show is not just utter disregard, but in the criminal law, there’s a concept known as depraved indifference and this is depraved indifference to human life and the cost of this crisis,” said William Tong, Connecticut’s Attorney General.
Tong says the emails bolster the case against the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, showing how the family and executives viewed those who were hooked on the company’s signature product, Oxycontin.
David Bernick, Sackler's attorney said the insensitive language in emails doesn't reflect what Dr. Sackler or Purdue actually did about the emerging problem of opioid abuse:
“Dr. Sackler has apologized for using insensitive language that doesn’t reflect what he actually did. These emails were written two decades ago following news reports about criminal activity involving prescription opioids, such as drug store robberies. Dr. Sackler was expressing his worry that this news coverage would stigmatize an essential FDA-approved medication that doctors feel is critical for treating their patients in pain. The same concern from twenty years ago exists today. The growing abuse of illicit fentanyl and heroin smuggled from China is now interfering with patient access to important legal medication," Bernick wrote in a statement.
The state’s lawsuit is looking to recover funds for treatment and abuse, and for families impacted by the opioid epidemic. Purdue Pharma’s current CEO has said publicly that the company is exploring bankruptcy protection due to the legal challenges against the company.