An owner of painkiller OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma LP has been accused of speaking dismissively about the opioid crisis that his family helped cause.
A lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James stated that in 2001, Richard Sackler told other executives that he believed OxyContin users were either "legitimate patients or reckless criminals," The Hill reports. An internal company email cited in the lawsuit showed Sackler saying that he disliked “criminal addicts…being glorified as some sort of populist victim.”
“I’ll tell you something that will totally revise your belief that addicts don’t want to be addicted. It is factually untrue. They get themselves addicted over and over again,” Sackler said in another exchange, according to The Wall Street Journal.
A spokesperson for the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma LP defended the 74-year-old Sackler's comments and told the Journal that the comments from the emails were made during a time when patients could potentially lose access to prescription painkillers.
“Richard and his entire family have always had tremendous empathy for anyone suffering with addiction, and he regrets that a long time ago he used this language that is now cherry-picked from tens of millions of documents,” another spokesperson added in a statement to The Hill. “And this week, the Sackler family donated $75 million to support a new National Center for Addiction Studies and Treatment that is dedicated to saving lives.”
The New York attorney general is filing civil claims against Purdue and other large pharmaceutical companies in an attempt to hold them responsible for the state's opioid health crisis.