Members of the super-rich Sackler family that profited from OxyContin were forced to listen to opioid victims call them the 'scum of the earth'

·3 min read
People from across the United States, who lost loved ones due to the opioid epidemic, rallied at the Department of Justice in Washington DC, calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy AG Lisa Monaco to bring criminal charges against members of the Sackler family.
People from across the United States, who lost loved ones due to the opioid epidemic, rallied at the Department of Justice in Washington DC, calling on Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy AG Lisa Monaco to bring criminal charges against members of the Sackler family.Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Angry family members of loved ones who died in America's opioid crisis confronted the Sackler family, who owned the OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, at an unusual hearing conducted virtually in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, AP reported.

The Sackler family filed for bankruptcy in 2019 due to thousands of lawsuits — of which this is one — after accusers said that their misleading and aggressive marketing of the controversial drug led to the addictions of hundreds of thousands of people.

At the hearing, people detailed their stories of loss and grief, with some outlining their road to forgiveness. Others unleashed their rage at the Sackler family, who have made a vast fortune from OxyContin sales.

The unrelenting hearings against the company feature two dozen victims of the opioid epidemic. "I hope that every single victim's face haunts your every waking moment and your sleeping ones, too," Ryan Hampton, of Las Vegas, told the Sackler family.

Hampton has been recovering from OxyContin addiction for seven years after he was prescribed the drug to treat knee pain, which led to overdoses and periods of homelessness.

"I hope you hear our names in your dreams. I hope you hear the screams of the families who find their loved ones dead on the bathroom floor. I hope you hear the sirens. I hope you hear the heart monitor as it beats along with a failing pulse," he said.

sackler purdue pharma opioid oxycontin
David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The hearing took place virtually, with Richard Sackler, the former Purdue president and board chair — who has said the company and family bear no responsibility for the opioid crisis — appearing on an audio link. Theresa Sackler, a British dame and wife of the late Mortimer D. Sackler, and David Sackler, Richard Sackler's son, appeared on video.

Theresa and David's expressions stayed neutral throughout the hearing, as emotion poured from the eyes and mouths of those detailing how their lives, the lives of their loved ones, the lives of their children were ruined by opioid addiction.

Kristy Nelson, whose son had died after an opioid overdose, noted that it was Richard Sackler's 77th birthday.

She played a recording from when she called 911 to get help for her overdosing son, then called one of the Sacklers the "scum of the earth," AP reported.

She echoed the exact phrase used by Richard Sackler in a 2001 email, made public during lawsuits over OxyContin –a pioneering extended-release prescription painkiller – regarding people with opioid addiction.

As per court rules, the Sacklers were not allowed to address the complainants.

A number of drugmakers have been settling lawsuits due to the opioid crisis, which is thought to have caused over 500,000 deaths in the past 20 years. Privately owned Purdue's case is of special interest because it was an early promoter of opioids.

The settlement against the Sacklers is estimated to be worth at least $10 billion, with calls for the Sacklers to contribute $5.5 billion to $6 billion over 17 years to fight the opioid crisis.

Most of the money is to be used to combat the crisis, but $750 million would go directly to those impacted by the drug.

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