A status hearing is scheduled Friday in the lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office against Purdue Pharmaceuticals. The suit accuses the drug company and eight members of the Sackler family that owns it of fueling the opioid crisis by deceptively selling OxyContin. Here are key points of the case.
• Role of chairman: Newly disclosed court documents say Dr. Richard Sackler, who became Purdue cochairman in 2003, outlined a strategy two years earlier to blame addicts for mounting overdoses. “We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Sackler wrote in an e-mail in February 2001, according to court filings reviewed by STAT, an online health and science publication produced by Boston Globe Media. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
• Ties to Tufts, MGH: Court records show that Purdue established connections with Tufts University’s Health Sciences Campus and Massachusetts General Hospital in an effort to “expand prescribing by physicians, generate goodwill toward opioid painkillers among medical students and doctors in training, and combat negative reports about opioid addiction.” The court records, according to STAT, say Purdue has paid MGH $3 million since 2009 and proposed “areas where education in the field of pain is needed” and “curriculum which might meet such needs,” per court records. Tufts, meanwhile, put a Purdue employee on its adjunct faculty in 2011. Three years later, Purdue-written materials were approved for teaching to Tufts students, according to the suit..
Tufts said on Jan. 18 that it found the disclosures “deeply troubling” and that it was reviewing its ties to Purdue Pharma.
Mass. General denied that the funding from Purdue influenced research or training programs at the hospital, and said there has been no connection between the hospital and Purdue since 2012.
• What does Purdue Pharma say? The company said in a statement that its medications are subject to government approval and oversight, and that the state’s “amended complaint irresponsibly and counterproductively casts every prescription of OxyContin as dangerous and illegitimate, substituting its lawyers’ sensational allegations for the expert scientific determinations of the [FDA] and completely ignoring the millions of patients who are prescribed Purdue Pharma’s medicines for the management of their severe chronic pain.”
Purdue also asserted that Attorney General Maura Healey’s office omitted information about the company’s efforts in the past decade to promote safe and appropriate use of opioid medicines.