The Indiana Attorney General’s Office on Tuesday announced a lawsuit against several owners and directors of pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, alleging those members of the Sackler family have played a key role in contributing to Indiana’s opioid epidemic.
Filed in Marion Superior Court, the complaint alleges that eight members of the Sackler family — who individually served as Purdue Pharma’s CEO, vice presidents and/or board directors — violated the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, the Prescription Drug Discount and Benefit Card Statute, the False Claims Act and the Medicaid False Claims Act, among other unlawful activities.
“We believe the Sacklers’ wrongful acts have left a wake of addiction, death and devastation in Indiana and across the country,” said Attorney General Curtis Hill. “I hope this lawsuit serves notice to all that this office will continue to hold accountable companies and individuals who are engaging in abusive, deceptive, illegal and/or unfair conduct that causes harm to Indiana consumers.”
The 201-page complaint states that Indiana is seeking civil penalties, treble damages, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, and restitution of sums constituting unjust enrichment from the Sackler family, with the latter being the lead claim in the case.
Specifically, it alleges that the family “shaped the company’s deceptive marketing strategies, received detailed reports on the implementation of those strategies, and continued to sanction this conduct” for years. From their positions as board members and high-ranking executive employees of Purdue, the complaint continues, the Sackler defendants therefore participated in, authorized, and directed such deceptive and unfair marketing activities.
The suit alleges that at the height of the opioid epidemic, from 2012-2016, “there were 58 Indiana counties with opioid prescribing rates greater than 100+ prescriptions per 100 residents. … These numbers have placed Indiana among the highest opioid prescription rates in the entire country.”
“Purdue Pharma’s conduct continued for at least a decade and the Sacklers continued to reap huge profits,” Hill said during a Tuesday press conference.
The complaint further alleges that the Sacklers enriched themselves by pocketing roughly $4 billion between 2007 and 2018 from Purdue’s OxyContin sales of more than $35 billion.
“The Sackler family and Purdue Pharma bear substantial responsibility for causing this crisis,” Hill said. “Now they must bear substantial responsibility to help fix it.”
The Tuesday complaint appears as round two of the AG office’s attack against Purdue Pharma, coming on the heels of a separate lawsuit filed against the company in November 2018. Following a two-year investigation, the AG’s office joined 27 other states in suing Purdue Pharma for allegedly intentionally understating the health risks of long-term opioid use.
Additionally, that lawsuit alleged the company, which manufactures the opioid-based pain medication OxyContin, deceptively marketed numerous drugs that violated Indiana law. The case remains pending in Marion Superior Court.
Hill said suing the Sackler family is another step toward holding those accountable who have committed wrongdoing. Assisting Hill’s office in the case are Washington, D.C., office of the firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and the Minneapolis-based firm Zimmerman Reed LLP.