New Jersey sues Sackler family over ‘deceptive’ opioid marketing

May 31, 2019

New Jersey has filed a civil lawsuit against several members of the high-profile family behind Purdue Pharma, the company that created the opioid painkiller OxyContin, claiming they deceptively marketed their drugs to turn a profit.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the eight Sackler family members named in the suit, all of whom sat on the company’s board, downplayed the risks associated with opioids and caused countless patients to become dependent.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sued members of the Sackler family, which founded Purdue Pharma. (Office of the Attorney General / Tim Larsen)

“They’ve made millions off the backs of patients who became addicted to OxyContin and other opioids,” Grewal said. “They put profits over people.”

A representative of the Sackler family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The opioid crisis continues to dog New Jersey, which recorded more than 3,100 drug overdose deaths in 2018.

Grewal said New Jersey spent tens of millions of dollars on prescription opioids through its state employee health plans, and the lawsuit seeks to recoup any money that was unnecessarily spent on drugs sold by Purdue Pharma.

Previously, New Jersey sued Purdue over deceptive marketing practices, but this lawsuit specifically targets individuals in the Sackler family who played a role in the company’s business strategy.

Other states also have sued members of the Sackler family, saying they want to hold them accountable for their role in the opioid crisis. Purdue has made billions of dollars from the powerful painkiller OxyContin since it was released in 1996.

Asked whether he could point to a particular example of the Sacklers’ behavior that stood out to him, Grewal said it would be difficult to identify one instance.

“What’s most unconscionable about their conduct is the length of it,” he said.