Purdue Pharma Chairman Pleads Guilty In Opioid Crisis, Billionaire Owners Avoid Charges

Steve Miller, Board Chairman of Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three federal counts of conspiracy for his company’s actions in the opioid crisis reports CBSN.  Steve Miller’s hearing was held in U.S. Federal District Court in New Jersey, remotely before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. The first charge was for conspiracy to defraud the United States in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.  The two other federal counts were for conspiracy to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, according to Reuters.

Miller’s felonies arose from Purdue’s distribution and sale of the highly addictive prescription drug painkiller OxyContin, and involved physicians and an electronic healthcare records vendor. A USNews.com report said “Purdue failed to prevent prescription drugs from being diverted to the black market, even though it had told the DEA it did have such a program”.

Purdue was levied criminal fines and forfietures of $8.3 billion, reports USNews.com.  Miller’s plea paved the way for Purdue to reach agreement with the government to waive fines for a direct payment of $225 million pursuant to the company’s bankruptcy settlement in federal bankruptcy court.  

Purdue Pharma was already in bankruptcy. It has agreed to be dissolved and its assets used to create a new “public benefit company” reports CNN News.  According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Purdue will use future profits to pay fines and penalties, which may be used to fight the opioid crisis that resulted in the overdose deaths of 70,000 Americans in 2018.  70% of the deaths resulted from opioids like OxyContin, according to the Centers for Desease Control (CDC). 

Purdue Pharma owners, the Sackler family are billionaires.  They also agreed to pay a civil penalty of $225 million for making false claims for OxyContin to Medicare and other  government programs. Although members of the Sackler family previously sat on its board of directors, none of the family have been criminally charged.


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