One of the owners of the company that makes OxyContin says she wouldn’t have done anything differently despite acknowledging during a congressional hearing that the powerful prescription painkiller has played a role in the national opioid crisis.
Kathe Sackler and her cousin David Sackler, who are members of the billionaire family that owns Purdue Pharma, made a rare public appearance on Thursday during a fiery congressional hearing before the House Oversight Committee.
While the two acknowledged that the powerful prescription painkiller has played a role in the national opioid crisis, they stopped short of apologizing for their individuals roles or admitting wrongdoing.
The company’s marketing efforts have been blamed for contributing to an opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has been linked to 470,000 deaths in the US over the past two decades.
When asked if she would apologize for any role she has played in the crisis, Kathe said she had struggled with the question of whether she could have done anything differently for years.
‘I have tried to figure out if there’s anything that I could have done differently knowing what I knew then, not what I know now,’ she said. ‘I have to say that there’s nothing that I can find that I would have done differently based on what I believed and understood then.’
Kathe Sackler and David Sackler, who are members of the family that owns Purdue Pharma, made a rare appearance in a public forum on Thursday during a congressional hearing before the House Oversight Committee
Rep. Kelly Armstrong, a North Dakota Republican, noted that OxyContin sales revenue increased even after the company pleaded guilty to crimes for improper marketing of the drug.
‘You want to ask what you could have done differently?’ she asked. ‘Look at your own damn balance sheet.’
Kathe told the hearing that she knows ‘the loss of any family member or loved one is terribly painful and nothing is more tragic than the loss of a child’.
‘As a mother my heart breaks for the parents who have lost their children. I am so terribly sorry for your pain.’
Kathe’s cousin, David, noted during the hearing that OxyContin had helped ‘millions of Americans’.
‘I want to express my family’s deep sadness about the opioid crisis,’ he told the hearing. ‘OxyContin is a medicine that Purdue intended to help people, and it has helped, and continues to help, millions of Americans.’
David, who is the son of ex-Purdue President Richard Sackler, also said that he had acted ‘legally and ethically’ while serving on Purdue’s board.
Kathe is a Purdue former vice-president and served on the company’s board between 1990 until 2018. David served on the board between 2012 until 2018.
Purdue CEO Craig Landau also testified, saying the company accepts ‘full responsibility’, which was in contrast to the family members.
The congressional committee is investigating the Sackler family and the company’s role in the national opioid addiction and overdose epidemic. The family owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma
President and CEO of Purdue Pharma Craig Landau also testified on Thursday during the hearing
HOW IS OXYCONTIN IMPLICATED IN THE US OPIOID CRISIS?
OxyContin is a prescription painkiller produced and sold by Purdue Pharma.
The drug is strong, addictive and was linked to thousands of overdose deaths in 2017.
Since OxyContin, a time-released opioid, was introduced in 1996, addiction and overdoses have surged.
In both 2017 and 2018, opioids were involved in more than 47,000 deaths, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 1999, by comparison, there were fewer than 4,000 opioid overdose deaths.
Purdue’s drugs are just a slice of the opioids prescribed, but critics assign a lot of the blame to the company because it developed both the drug and an aggressive marketing strategy.
Kathe and David, who are descendants of two of the three brothers who bought Purdue nearly 70 years ago, appeared before the committee in a video hearing held amid COVID-19 restrictions.
It is the first time in years that any member of the wealthy Sackler family have taken questions in public from an official body. They appeared before the hearing after the committee’s chairwoman, Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, threatened to issue subpoenas.
Both Kathe and David were hammered with questions from lawmakers throughout the hearing over Purdue’s role in the national opioid addiction and overdose epidemic.
They were repeatedly asked if they personally took any responsibility for the crisis.
The committee members, from both political parties, were unmoved by the Sacklers’ explanations and blasted them repeatedly. Many accused the Sackler family of turning a blind eye to the crisis by profiting from OxyContin.
‘Watching you testify makes my blood boil,’ said Rep. Jim Cooper, a Tennessee Democrat. ‘I’m not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that´s more evil than yours.’
The hearing came three weeks after Purdue pleaded guilty to three criminal charges as part of a sweeping settlement with the Department of Justice.
The company agreed to pay more than $8 billion in forfeitures and penalties, while members of the Sackler family would have to pay $225 million to the government. No family member would be criminally prosecuted under the Justice Department settlement, although the deal leaves open that possibility.
The hearing came three weeks after Purdue pleaded guilty to three criminal charges as part of a sweeping settlement with the Department of Justice
The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the US. Pictured above is some of the Sackler family: Dr Richard Sackler, standing second from left and Jonathan Sackler standing second from right. Seated is Raymond and Beverly Sackler
The settlement requires the company to hand over just $225 million of the $8 billion total to the government as long as Purdue makes good on plans to settle thousands of lawsuits filed by state and local governments, a matter that is now in bankruptcy court.
The Stamford, Connecticut-based company and the Sacklers have proposed resolving the lawsuits by transforming Purdue into a public benefit corporation, with its profits used to combat the opioid epidemic.
Some members of Congress and attorneys general for about half the states oppose that plan, which includes a requirement for Sackler family members to pay at least $3 billion in addition to giving up control of the company.
Court documents show they have received more than $12 billion from Purdue since OxyContin was released.
A third branch of the family sold its stake in the company before the blockbuster painkiller was developed in the 1990s.
David Sackler told the committee on Thursday that the value of the company plus the $3 billion the family would contribute add up to more than the family received from OxyContin.
He also noted that about half of what family members took out of the company was paid in taxes.
WHO ARE THE SACKLERS?
Purdue Pharma, which is run by some members of the wealthy Sackler family, has made tens of billions on opioid sales. Here is a breakdown of who the Sacklers are, including those who have and haven’t been involved in Purdue Pharma:
Arthur, a doctor and psychiatrist, founded a research laboratory in 1938, but Arthur’s real genius was in marketing and he leveraged it to sell a number of medications, including the anti-anxiety drug, Valium.
He and his younger brothers Mortimer and Raymond owned a small pharma company called Purdue Frederick that they purchased in 1952. That company produced betadine and earwax.
Arthur remained a relatively silent partner in the old Purdue and died in 1987 before it became the company we know it as today.
He never saw any of Purdue’s OxyContin profits.
He donated the funds to open a number of medical education programs, libraries and museums.
Arthur was inducted into the Medical Marketing Hall of Fame upon his death in 1987.
After his death in 1987, his brothers bought Arthur’s portion of the company.
One of his four children, daughter Elizabeth, has largely taken over his philanthropy work.
Arthur and his heirs have had no involvement in Purdue Pharma or with OxyContin.
Mortimer was an American physician and psychiatrist.
He and his brothers, the older Arthur and the younger Raymond published prolific medical research before buying a number of pharmaceutical companies, including, in 1952, Purdue Frederick.
After Arthur’s death Mortimer and Raymond bought out his descendants’ share of Purdue Frederick, and in 1991 they created the company that would become a pain management giant we now know, Purdue Pharma.
Mortimer became a lavish arts patron, known for equally extravagant donations and parties, beginning in the 1970s.
He died in 2010.
Raymond was a doctor like his older brothers, and the three were partners in all things until each of their deaths.
Together with Mortimer, Raymond found success with their opioid painkiller, OxyContin, which became the Purdue Pharma’s signature drug.
Raymond was milder and more private than his brother, Mortimer.
Raymond had two children, Richard and Jonathan, before his death last year.
Mortimer’s eldest daughter with his first wife.
She was listed as a director of Purdue’s sister company, UK-based Napp Pharamaceutical Holdings, as of December 2016.
She lives in an apartment in an iconic Upper West Side which she owns.
Its total value is estimated to be more than $122million.
Kathe is one of the directors of Napp, a UK-based company which also sold OxyContin.
She owns two suburban properties in Connecticut which are separated by another owned by someone else and she lives in an Upper East Side townhouse with her wife, Susan Shack Sackler.
The house was owned by both Raymond and Mortimer. Their children share it.
Kathe and Ilene had a brother, Robert, is deceased.
JONATHAN AND RICHARD SACKLER
Raymond’s two son by wife Beverly.
Jonathan formerly lived with his wife in Greenwich, Connecticut, in a property next to his mother’s.
Richard’s former family home is not far away in neighboring Stamford.
They have a cancer research center named after them at Yale and have both held positions at Purdue.
Richard Sackler followed in his father’s footsteps, getting his medical degree at New York University School of Medicine.
He came to Purdue after medical school, leading the research and development that ultimately produced the extended release form of OxyContin that would elevate the family’s fortune to previously unfathomable.
He became president of Purdue in 1991, pioneering marketing campaigns that enticed droves of medical professionals to buy Purdue’s opioid.
Richard became co-chairman in 2003, by which point $1.6 billion in OxyContin had been sold.
His marketing schemes sparked suspicion, and in 2015, Richard was deposed before his company paid out a $24 million settlement.
The company appealed in 2017, but the case has not moved forward.
Arthur’s daughter has publicly and persistently attempted to distance herself from branch of her family that has profited from OxyContin.
Elizabeth is a licensed psychiatrist and well-known philanthropist.
She is the founder of an eponymous Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum in New York.
She has previously expressed disgrace for her uncles’ business.
Elizabeth has previously told DailyMail.com: ‘I, nor my siblings, nor my children have ever owned or benefited from Purdue Pharma or OxyContin or oxycodone.
‘It’s another branch of the family.’
BEVERLY AND THERESA SACKLER
Theresa, 69, owns a $45million Upper East Side apartment building but lives mostly in the UK on a 10-acre estate in the Berkshire countryside.
She is known in the UK as Dame Theresa Sackler, a title she was awarded for her sustained philanthropy and support of the arts.
Theresa is more visible than her sister-in-law.
Beverly, 94, is Raymond’s widow. She lives on a Greenwich, Connecticut waterfront estate which has an estimated land and property value of almost $50million. She also owns a 17-floor Fifth Avenue building in Manhattan.
When her husband was still alive, they donated the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences at Yale. It now employs 50 people across 20 departments.
MORTIMER DAVID ALFONS SACKLER
Mortimer the only son of founding brother Mortimer, Mortimer II’s mother is Gertraud Wimmer, Mortimer’s second wife.
Mortimer David owns a luxury condo building in Boston and lives in New York City with his 42-year-old wife Jacqueline.
The couple are a regular fixture on the Manhattan social circuit.
DAVID AND JOSS SACKLER
David is intensely private but his wife, Joss, is not.
She runs the members-only women’s social club, LBV.
Among its events are group workouts at the model haven gym Dog Pound and talks such as ‘how to have the money talk with your kids.’