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Sackler family launches website to 'set the record straight' over OxyContin - but it buries mention of company's guilty pleas to federal crimes and $8.6BN fine

 A branch of the scandal-hit Sackler family has launched a lavish website to deny claims they are to blame for the opioid crisis - despite agreeing to pay a multi-billion dollar settlement to its victims.    

The site, called judgeforyourselves.info, claims the Sackler's firm Purdue Pharma is the victim of a smear campaign, even though the company admitted misleading the public about the strength of prescription painkiller OxyContin. It was created by late co-founder Raymond Sackler's branch of the family. 

Raymond - one of three brothers to found Purdue - went on to become the company's chief executive officer, and died aged 97 in 2017. He had two sons - Jonathan, who died of cancer last year, as well as Richard. Richard's son David was on the Purdue board of directors from 2012 to August 2018.

Their new site has six sections - including information on the history of the opioid crisis, and another section called 'Correcting the Record' which attacks alleged errors in lawsuits filed against Purdue, media stories and even scientific studies. 

It also includes a section listing the many national publications the Sacklers claim have been required to correct inaccurate coverage of Purdue, OxyContin and the Sacklers themselves. 

The website's claims of misinformation come despite the Sackler family paying out nearly $9 billion to settle lawsuits in over claims they shouldered a large part of the blame for the opioid crisis. That crisis has so-far seen 500,000 Americans die after becoming addicted to powerful painkillers.

The site says the 'Sackler family regrets that OxyContin.... unexpectedly became part of the opioid crisis' and offers what it describes as 'publicly available, verifiable information' that 'corrects falsehoods and sets the record straight'.

The site buries any mention of the company's guilty pleas to federal crimes between 2007 and 2020 for which it was fined $8.6 billion in total. No mention of the guilty pleas appears on the site's homepage.

A page entitled 'guilty pleas' is accessible through a sub menu, but it does not mention the fines. It does point out that the Sacklers themselves were not charged, and mentions that the family 'vigorously denies any wrongdoing'. 

Purdue has been hit with hundreds of civil lawsuits, class actions and criminal charges in state and federal courts since the early 2000s. 

In 2007, the family firm pleaded guilty to misleading the public about OxyContin's risk of addiction and paid a $600 million fine to Department of Justice - one of the largest pharmaceutical settlements in history.

Three senior executives - none of them members of the Sackler family - pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, and the firm pledged to follow strict new ethics guidelines.

In October 2020, the company agreed to pay a further $8 billion in a deal with the Justice Department to settle civil and criminal investigations into Purdue Pharma's aggressive marketing of OxyContin.

The deal allowed members of the family and company officials to avoid jail time.

The Sacklers were one of the wealthiest families in the US, but fell from grace after their role in the opioid epidemic emerged. Pictured above is: Dr Richard Sackler, standing second from left and Jonathan Sackler standing second from right. Seated is co-founder Raymond and his wife Beverly Sackler

The Sacklers were one of the wealthiest families in the US, but fell from grace after their role in the opioid epidemic emerged. Pictured above is: Dr Richard Sackler, standing second from left and Jonathan Sackler standing second from right. Seated is co-founder Raymond and his wife Beverly Sackler

Jonathan Sackler, who died of cancer in June last year aged 65, was the son of Raymond Sackler and a key executive of the company as it fueled the opioid epidemic
Richard Sackler, 76, the eldest son of Raymond Sackler, who was chairman and president of Purdue Pharma

Jonathan Sackler, left, who died of cancer in June last year aged 65, was the son of Raymond Sackler and a key executive of the company as it fueled the opioid epidemic. Richard Sackler, 76, right, the eldest son of Raymond Sackler, who was chairman and president of Purdue Pharma

The Purdue Pharma headquarters are seen in downtown Stamford, Connecticut in 2019

The Purdue Pharma headquarters are seen in downtown Stamford, Connecticut in 2019

Raymond and his wife, Beverly Sackler, of the Sackler family are pictured in an undated photo. Raymond is a brother of Mortimer; he died in 2017. She died in 2019 at 95

Raymond and his wife, Beverly Sackler, of the Sackler family are pictured in an undated photo. Raymond is a brother of Mortimer; he died in 2017. She died in 2019 at 95

Raymond Sackler was the youngest of three brothers who formed Purdue Pharma;  the eldest Arthur died in 1987 before OxyContin was invented, and middle brother Mortimer Sackler. 

All three went to medical school and became psychiatrists before they became pharmaceutical entrepreneurs. 

Raymond's son Jonathan Sackler, who died aged 65 last year, served as an executive and board member and was named as a defendant in key opioid lawsuits.

His other son Richard Sackler, 76, was chairman and president of Purdue Pharma.   

David Sackler, 40, son of Richard and grandson of Raymond, appeared before Congress's House Oversight Committee last year along with his cousin, Dr. Kathe Sackler, 72.

Both had served on the company's board for years. 

Addressing them both, Representative Jim Cooper, Democrat of Tennessee, said: 'Watching you testify makes my blood boil. I'm not aware of any family in America that is more evil than yours.'

The new site claims the Purdue Pharma board acted 'ethically and lawfully' and that a proposed resolution to reorganize the company would see the Sacklers relinquish ownership of Purdue and donate $4.275 billion to 'communities and people in need'.

Under the terms of the deal with the Department of Justice, the company is being wound up formed into a new not-for-profit company and the family is not permitted to be involved with it.

That would shield them from further lawsuits - but not criminal prosecution.  

The deal struck in October 2020 did not satisfy the two dozen state attorney generals nor Democratic lawmakers who had been urging the DoJ to punish Sackler to the full extent of the law. 

Nearly three dozen Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to then Attorney General Bill Barr insisting any deal to resolve Purdue Pharma's role in the opioid crisis result in prison time for company owners and executives.

'Purdue and the Sackler family perpetrated one of the most egregious criminal acts in American history,' the lawmakers said. 

Some two dozen US state attorney generals have also taken legal action against Purdue, and warned any deal to control the company as a public entity risked having 'special ties' to a company that 'caused a national crisis'.  

The new website states it was launched by members of Raymond Sackler's family. 


Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin pills, made by Purdue Pharma. The high-strength prescription painkillers earned the family billions of dollars, and also contributed to the deaths of some 500,000 people (file photo)

Bottles of prescription painkiller OxyContin pills, made by Purdue Pharma. The high-strength prescription painkillers earned the family billions of dollars, and also contributed to the deaths of some 500,000 people (file photo)

The Sackler family used their extraordinary wealth to launder their reputations through generous endowments to renowned art institutions such as New York's Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art, above, The Louvre in Paris, and the Smithsonian in Washington DC, a new book claims

The Sackler family used their extraordinary wealth to launder their reputations through generous endowments to renowned art institutions such as New York's Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art, above, The Louvre in Paris, and the Smithsonian in Washington DC, a new book claims

The website was launched just weeks after the publication of a new book Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe, which paints a damning portrait of of the family's history. 

It showed the most intimate portrait yet of a family who used their extraordinary wealth to launder their reputations through generous endowments to renowned art institutions such as New York's Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre in Paris, and the Smithsonian in Washington DC. 

The Louvre has since scrubbed the Sackler name from its walls, with calls for New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art to follow suit.  

The book also claimed the family tried to erase the 1975 suicide of family heir Bobby Sackler, 24, who was addicted to heroin.

The death and drug addictions of Bobby, the son of pharmaceutical giant Mortimer Sackler, were 'an inconvenient truth and a huge embarrassment' to the family, the book claimed.   

The OxyContin pills the Sackler family would invent and market 20 years after his death are a semi-synthetic derivative of heroin, the drug Bobby was addicted to.

Bobby left his apartment on East 64th Street in New York City on the morning of July 5, 1975 to visit the home of his mother, Muriel Sackler, on East 86th Street, who was divorced from his powerful father. Muriel died in 2009, according to her obituary.

He fought with the elevator operator when he arrived in the lobby before storming into his mother's two-bedroom on the ninth floor, Radden Keefe revealed.

Bobby was overheard arguing with her while demanding money in the moments before he broke a window and fell to his death. 

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