Today, Bipartisan Opioid Task Force co-chairs Representatives Annie Kuster (D-NH) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) released the following statement on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) announcement that Purdue Pharma, the company that makes the powerful and highly addictive prescription painkiller OxyContin, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws as part of an $8.3 billion settlement. Purdue and the Sackler family perpetrated crimes and intentionally caused millions of unsuspecting people to become addicted to powerful painkillers for profit, worsening the opioid crisis and directly contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. Since 2000, the opioid crisis has resulted in the deaths of more than 470,000 Americans.
“Millions of Americans have been affected by the opioid epidemic, hundreds of thousands have died, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in opioid addiction, overdoses, and deaths," said the co-chairs. "Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have committed egregious crimes and intentionally contributed to the opioid crisis for their own personal financial benefit, at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. Their actions were willfully shameful and criminal. Today’s announcement is a small step towards justice, but it’s not enough. Money from this settlement should go towards recovery and prevention efforts to address the opioid epidemic that Purdue helped to create. There will be no justice until members of the Sackler family are held personally criminally liable for what they have done. Allowing companies to buy their way out of violating federal laws is not justice.”
The Bipartisan Opioid Task Force holds regular roundtable discussions to hear from experts and work towards common-sense solutions to respond to the opioid and substance misuse epidemic. Last month, co-chairs Kuster and Fitzpatrick led a Task Force roundtable conversation with experts on drug abuse prevention to discuss efforts to use technology to prevent addiction and promote patient safety. In February, the Task Force unveiled its 2020 legislative agenda which outlines commonsense, bipartisan legislation that would address the opioid epidemic by bolstering prevention, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement efforts. The agenda also takes on the criminal justice and economic hurdles that have contributed to the growth of the crisis. The full legislative agenda is available HERE.
Last week, Rep. Kuster helped lead a letter with Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05), signed by 36 of their colleagues, to U.S. Attorney General William Barr expressing their deep concern regarding recent and alarming reports that Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family were nearing a plea agreement with the DOJ which would resolve all their federal criminal liability without a single person serving a day in prison. The deal announced today reportedly does not release the company’s owners or executives, including members of the Sackler family, from criminal liability.