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Unredacted Connecticut lawsuit targets Purdue Pharma co-owner

May 7, 2019 GMT

STAMFORD — Attorney General William Tong released Tuesday an unredacted version of the state’s lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, which he said contains e-mails from company co-owner and former president Richard Sackler that show “shocking and offensive” disregard for victims of the opioid crisis.

Following an amended version filed April 22, the unredacted litigation also focuses on Purdue’s alleged actions in the state to push its deadly pain drugs and financial moves by the Sackler family members who own the company that were purportedly intended for them to avoid personal liability through hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent transfers.

“These emails are far more than a momentary lapse in judgment between friends—they encapsulate the depraved indifference to human suffering that infected Purdue’s entire business model,” Tong said in a statement. “Purdue and defendant members of the Sackler family knew people were dying, but they continued to push their opioids in blind pursuit of profit. Purdue and the Sacklers must be held accountable.”

Purdue officials were not immediately available to comment Tuesday. The company has previously denied the lawsuit’s allegations.

Among the previously undisclosed emails is a reported 2001 email exchange between Richard Sackler and an acquaintance, in which the acquaintance said: “Abusers die, well that is the choice they made, I doubt a single one didn’t know of the risks.” Richard Sackler responded that “abusers aren’t victims; they are the victimizers,” according to the lawsuit.

In a separate 2001 e-mail exchange with the same acquaintance, that Tong cited as another example of Richard Sackler’s alleged lack of concern for opiod victims, the lawsuits quotes Sackler as saying that “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.”

Richard Sackler comprises one of eight Sackler family members who own Purdue and are named in Connecticut’s lawsuit. The others are Beverly Sackler, David Sackler, Ilene Sackler Lefcourt, Jonathan Sackler, Kathe Sackler, Mortimer D.A. Sackler and Theresa Sackler.

Other lawsuits, including Massachusetts’, have also highlighted Richard Sackler’s role as an alleged instigator of Purdue’s purportedly deceptive opioid marketing.

At a launch party for OxyContin, which went on the market in 1996, he predicted a “blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition,” according to the Massachusetts suit.

In 1997, Richard Sackler, Kathe Sackler, and other Purdue executives concluded — and recorded in “secret” internal correspondence — that doctors mistakenly thought OxyContin was weaker than morphine, according to Massachusetts. The misunderstanding allegedly led to significantly more OxyContin prescriptions, even as a substitute for Tylenol.

Parts of Connecticut’s lawsuit were initially redacted related to an order by a federal judge requiring that the information be kept confidential unless the producing party agreed that the information could be disclosed, according to Tong’s office. The state has since obtained an agreement to release those communications.

Meanwhile, Tong has reiterated his intent to take the case to trial, despite Oklahoma reaching in late March a $270 million settlement with Purdue, to resolve a similar lawsuit.

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter “made a judgment that $270 million was the right deal for the people of Oklahoma. It would not be the right deal for the people of Connecticut,” Tong said in a recent interview. “In my view, this is a national public health crisis, and the damages are extensive and significant and go far beyond any dollar I can put on it right now. They go far beyond $270 million.”

Meanwhile, the Sacklers have indicated that they want to avoid a trial. An attorney for four of the Sackler defendants has said that her clients would prefer to settle and reach a “global resolution” of the pending litigation, which includes more than 1,000 lawsuits against their company.

But Purdue and Connecticut are “not close” to reaching an agreement, according to Tong.