Suffolk County is First Municipality in New York State to Bring Action against Sackler Families
Amended complaint alleges the Sacklers knew the dangers of prescription opioids yet actively participated in efforts to portray them as non-addictive; Retailers CVS, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, Anda and Rite-Aid also accused of role in the epidemic
Suffolk County, NY – Members of the Sackler family, who have controlled opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma for decades, actively participated in the conspiracy and fraud to portray the prescription painkiller as non-addictive, even though they knew it was dangerously addictive, according to an amended complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court today.
Simmons Hanly Conroy, one of the nation’s largest law firms focused on consumer protection and mass tort actions, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, made the allegations in an amended complaint in the lawsuit it originally filed on behalf of Suffolk County, New York in August 2016, alleging pharmaceutical companies fraudulently marketed prescription opioid painkillers, leading to a drug epidemic in the county and throughout the nation.
While hundreds of lawsuits have been filed nationwide accusing Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers of creating the opioid epidemic, this amended complaint contains specific allegations against the Sacklers that have never been made before. Very few of these lawsuits – and none in New York – have even named members of the Sackler family as defendants, even though billions of dollars of profits from Purdue’s sale of opioids has been distributed to them since the 1980s.
“Suffolk County has been at the forefront of fighting the opioid epidemic and is leading the State in seeking justice against the perpetrators of this alleged fraud,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “We are confident that the Court will agree with our position so that both the families affected, and the taxpayers on the hook, will receive the justice that they deserve.”
“What Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family have done to society through their aggressive peddling of opioids is unconscionable,” said Simmons Hanly Conroy Shareholder Paul J. Hanly, Jr., lead counsel for the county in this case. “This crisis could have been avoided. As alleged in the amended complaint, the Sacklers knew the dangers of opioids and chose to ignore them. Through their business dealings and ownership of Purdue, the Sacklers have manufactured, promoted and recklessly marketed opioids by omitting critical information that could have saved thousands of lives, communities and families if known sooner. The Sacklers have unjustly enriched themselves as a result.”
Also named in the amended complaint are wholesale and retail pharmaceutical distributors CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Anda. It is alleged that they, among other things, failed to control the supply chain by flooding the country with prescription opioids and permitting diversion to the illegal market.
Purdue Pharma is part of a complicated web of entities through which the Sackler family operates, according to the amended complaint. As the amended complaint describes, half of Purdue is owned and controlled, directly or indirectly, through family trusts and holding companies by the widow and descendants of Mortimer D. Sackler with the remaining 50 percent owned and controlled by the widow and descendants of Raymond R. Sackler. Because the Sackler family controls the Purdue board, the CEOs of all Purdue-related companies report to them. Among the new defendants is Rhodes Pharmaceuticals L.P., a company controlled by the Sacklers which marketed a generic form of OxyContin manufactured by Purdue Pharmaceuticals.
The amended complaint also alleges members of the Sackler family were aware of the risks associated with OxyContin no later than the summer of 1999 when a Purdue sales representative reported widespread abuse of OxyContin. As a result, a Purdue employee was tasked to research the topic and produced a detailed memo in the fall of 1999 that described how users would remove the coating on OxyContin pills, crush them, cook them, and snort or shoot them. As alleged in the amended complaint, that memo was sent to the president of Purdue, its general counsel, Purdue’s medical director, and directly to members of the Sackler family involved in the management of the company.
The amended complaint also alleges that Sackler family members were aware of and supportive of a method developed by Purdue to cause company emails to self-destruct at a pre-determined time. This was an attempt to create a system where potentially incriminating documents would automatically self-destruct, even after receipt by unrelated third-parties.