OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to federal crimes

By Joseph Wilkinson

The company responsible for thousands of overdose deaths at the hands of its drug OxyContin pleaded guilty to federal crimes Tuesday.

Purdue Pharma, owned and operated by the Sackler family while it pushed the painkilling opioid to addicts, formally admitted to the federal charges as part of a plea agreement signed in October.

The settlement also requires Purdue to pay $8.3 billion to the federal government, but that probably won't happen because Purdue declared bankruptcy last year, the Wall Street Journal reported. Its remaining money is being saved to pay the numerous states, cities and counties suing the company.

Purdue formally admitted Tuesday that the company pushed OxyContin despite knowing how addictive it was. The company also said it paid off doctors to prescribe OxyContin to patients who didn't need it.

Purdue also knew that more than 100 providers were likely selling extra OxyContin off the books, but kept mailing the drugs and cashing the checks, the Justice Department said in a press release.

The deal will eventually result in Purdue ceasing to exist as a profit-making company. Instead, it will become a "public benefit company" in which its "profits" go to opioid treatment programs in states and communities.

Several state attorneys general have criticized the federal deal, promising to go even harder after Purdue and the Sacklers.

"While our country continues to recover from the pain and destruction left by the Sacklers' greed, this family has attempted to evade responsibility and lowball the millions of victims of the opioid crisis," New York Attorney General Letita James said when the deal was announced. "Today's deal doesn't account for the hundreds of thousands of deaths or millions of addictions caused by Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family."

A civil settlement required the Sackler family to pay $225 million. While the federal deal does not prosecute the Sacklers, they are still open to prosecution from states and localities for their role in the opioid crisis.

Purdue formally pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.