A key component of the American legal system, in the criminal and civil systems, is the opportunity afforded to those most harmed to see those implicated in awful situations take responsibility for their conduct. It can be a key moment for the aggrieved to find closure and a measure of justice.
The plutocratic Sackler family has largely eluded this important reckoning.
They got a rare taste of it, under threat of congressional subpoena, as the Sacklers were assailed by lawmakers for the grievous damage done by their family which owned and operated Purdue Pharmaceutical and its notorious prescription painkiller OxyContin.
These video clips, courtesy of Roll Call and NBC News, speak loudly for themselves, so viewers can decide whether these wealthy and accomplished folks show an iota of responsibility, compassion, or concern for those addicted, debilitated, and who died due to a Big Pharma product that enriched them. The hearing also is available in official form by clicking here for the web page of the U.S. House Oversight Committee.
Will this be it for public blaming and shaming for the Sacklers, Purdue, and OxyContin? Maybe. Maybe not. Federal prosecutors have not criminally charged them. The company — but not family members — is in bankruptcy court and in a complex civil case, part of thousands of opioid lawsuits consolidated in a federal court in Cleveland.
The Sacklers insist that they are giving up control of Purdue and that will cost them billions of dollars. Critics say they have pulled billions of dollars from the company before relinquishing control. Purdue’s relentless push to sell its drug, a campaign pressed by the Sackler family, provided a ghastly template for peddling opioids, triggering abuse, addiction, debilitation, and death for hundreds of thousands of Americans in recent times, experts say.
In my practice, I see not only the harms that patients suffer while seeking medical services, but also the damages that can be inflicted on them by dangerous drugs, notably prescription painkillers. These powerful medications, and their synthetic formulations, have opened the door to even more carnage with abuse and overdose deaths, also involving illicit narcotics. The opioid and overdose crisis, which appeared to ease slightly but took years to create (with the help of doctors, hospitals, Big Pharma, insurers, and others), has only worsened during the coronavirus pandemic. And the U.S. Justice Department raced to settle with Sacklers before the Trump Administration left office.
What’s next? We have much work to do to deal with our drug menaces and to see if a far more satisfying public accounting can be wrung from the many parties who have fueled its growth.