BOSTON (CBS) – On Friday, a judge in Boston heard the first of what will be many arguments in a huge lawsuit against a giant drug maker.
Attorney General Maura Healey is suing Purdue Pharma arguing the company’s actions exacerbated the opioid crisis. The case is shining a spotlight on the powerful family behind the drug maker.
Healey alleges eight members of the Sackler family “caused much of the opioid epidemic” by controlling a “deceptive sales campaign” for their blockbuster drug OxyContin. The company calls it a “rush to vilify” claiming the attorney general “cherry-picked” from among millions of documents. But none of the family members named in the lawsuit has commented.
“Their policy until now has been to be utterly silent, never make a comment about the opioid epidemic, and never acknowledge their connection,” said Christopher Glazek, who wrote an article on the Sacklers for Esquire Magazine.
Glazek researched the three brothers who developed the family business: Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond. “They were all very avid businessmen,” Glazek said. “They were all hell-bent on becoming super rich.”
Arthur first got rich as a marketer, Glazek says, turning a different company’s pill, Valium, into America’s top-selling drug.
“Arthur’s idea was, ‘Why don’t we take this drug and give it to all kinds of patients for all kinds of ailments, patients who have headaches, who have trouble sleeping, sexual problems,” Glazek said.
Arthur died years before OxyContin came to market but Glazek says his brothers and their families applied Arthur’s marketing methods to sell it as widely as possible. It turned them into one of the 20 richest families in the U.S., according to Forbes, with a multi-billion dollar fortune but a very low profile.
The Sackler family has donated millions to charities over the years and Tufts University named a graduate school after the family. Tufts told CBS News it is reviewing its relationship with Purdue Pharma.