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Purdue Pharma L.P. is a privately held pharmaceutical company owned principally by descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler. The company is the target of the Opioid litigation stampede.

In 2007 it paid out one of the largest fines ever levied against a pharmaceutical firm for mislabeling its product OxyContin, and three executives were found guilty of criminal charges. Purdue continues to market and sell opioids

Purdue Pharma was founded in 1892. In 1952, the company was sold to two other medical doctors, Raymond and Mortimer Sackler. OxyContin, was introduced by the company in 1995. Under a marketing strategy that Arthur Sackler had pioneered decades earlier, the company aggressively pressed doctors to prescribe the drug, wooing them with free trips to pain-management seminars and paid speaking engagements. Sales soared.

OxyContin became a blockbuster drug. Purdue had increased its earnings from a few billion in 2007 to US$31 billion by 2016. That had increased to US$35 billion by 2017. According to a 2017 article in The New Yorker, Purdue Pharma is “owned by one of America’s richest families, with a collective net worth of thirteen billion dollars”.

Perhaps in response to rumors that Purdue is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as a strategy to limit its damages, the Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s lawsuit filed against the company in June in Suffolk County Superior Court, was revised earlier this year to include new allegations. The suit is now the first by a state to try to attempt to hold Sackler family members personally responsible for contributing to the opioid epidemic.

Healey’s complaint cites records to argue that family members, including Purdue’s former President Richard Sackler, personally directed deceptive opioid marketing while making $4.2 billion from Purdue from 2008 to 2016.

They did so even after Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, the lawsuit said.

But in their motion, the Sacklers said nothing in the complaint supports allegations they personally took part in efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the benefits and addictive risks of opioids.

They said their role was limited to that of typical corporate board members who participated in “routine” votes to ratify the management’s staffing and budget proposals.

“Not a single document shows an individual director engaging in any unlawful conduct regarding the sale of prescription opioids or ordering anyone else to do so,” the Sacklers’ lawyers wrote.

Healey, in a statement, called the motion “an attempt to avoid accountability.”