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(Bloomberg) -- Purdue Pharma’s ongoing bankruptcy trial saw former president Richard Sackler assert ignorance of how many people have died from OxyContin, the drugmaker’s addictive painkiller.

Sackler, a son of Purdue co-founder Raymond Sackler, served as the company’s president in the early 2000s and sat on its board for almost three decades. His testimony in the case, a rare public appearance, follows that of his own son, David Sackler, on Tuesday.

At the start of day five of Purdue’s bankruptcy settlement trial, Maryland Assistant Attorney General Brian Edmunds pressed Sackler on the public health fallout from opioid use. When asked if he knew how many people had died from misuse of OxyContin in the U.S., Sackler said simply: “I don’t know.”


Asked how many had died from OxyContin or the same drug under another name throughout the world, he reiterated: “I do not know.”

Almost half a million people died from opioid overdoses, including prescription and illicit opioids, from 1999 to 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Members of the Sackler family that own Purdue Pharma, including David and Richard, have come under intense public scrutiny in recent years for OxyContin’s role in the opioid crisis. They have denied doing anything illegal while overseeing the company.

Later in his testimony, which stretched over several hours, Richard Sackler bluntly said neither his family nor Purdue Pharma bear any responsibility for the opioid crisis. His son said yesterday that that the family has a “moral responsibility” to fight the opioid crisis, but that OxyContin’s role in it was “unintentional.”

Purdue Pharma is seeking bankruptcy court approval of a settlement that would dedicate the company’s assets to fighting the crisis and would see Sackler family members pay some $4.3 billion over the next 10 years for broad legal protections from opioid lawsuits. Under questioning by lawyers on Wednesday, Richard Sackler said he wasn’t sure whether he’d have to personally shell out any money to contribute to the deal.


“I don’t think that’s been decided yet,” Sackler said. He later clarified that when talking about not knowing whether he’d be putting money into the settlement fund, he was talking about monies “in my checking account.”

During his testimony, Sackler disputed the government’s statements about the company’s wrongdoing in connection with its guilty plea over recent OxyContin sales and marketing.

“I do not agree” with statements outlined in the government’s filing, he told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Drain.

The bankruptcy case is Purdue Pharma LP, 19-23649, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York (White Plains).