The Sackler family, owner of major pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma, spent years deliberately misleading doctors and patients about the lethal danger posed by its flagship product, the opioid painkiller OxyContin.
On Tuesday, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey filed internal communications from the company that clearly proves how the Sackler family sought to cash in on the proliferation of OxyContin as the body count resulting from its use mounted, fanning the deadly opioid epidemic that has spread across the United States.
Despite growing evidence of the drug’s addictive potential and its toll on human lives, the company’s then-president Richard Sackler cynically sought to shield his company from liability by shifting the blame onto the opioid’s victims, according to The New York Times.
In 2001, Sackler wrote in an email:
“We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible … They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.”
Additionally, the filing reveals that Richard Sackler urged sales representatives to advise doctors to prescribe high doses of OxyContin as a means of maximizing company profits.
The email is part of a tranche of internal correspondence that Maryland’s attorney general cited in her latest company filing, showing the aggressive nature of Purdue Pharma’s marketing of the drug, which ultimately helped spark the ongoing opioid epidemic while making the Sackler family one of the richest families in the United States. The Sackler name adorns medical schools and museums across the globe.
The court filing also asserts that Purdue Pharma had received scores of reports that OxyContin was making its way onto the streets and was being abused, yet the company failed to alert authorities.
Last June, the Massachusetts attorney general sued eight members of the Sackler family along with various executives and members, alleging that the company had deliberately misled patients and doctors about the drug’s risks.
Following OxyContin’s 1995 launch, Richard Sackler bragged that “the launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white,” according to the legal complaint.
In 2007, Purdue Pharma and its three leading executives pled guilty to federal criminal charges that the company had misrepresented the dangers of OxyContin, resulting in the company paying $634.5 million in fines – yet the Sacklers were never accused of personal wrongdoing and have never been on the hook for the consequences of their profiteering from the drug epidemic.
The filing, however, shows that as late as 2012, Richard Sackler meticulously micromanaged the company’s sales and marketing efforts.
Over 200,000 people have died in the United States from prescription opioid overdoses since 1996, making Purdue Pharma the target of numerous of lawsuits. In 2017 alone, about 65,000 fatal drug overdoses took place in the U.S., many of which were due to cases of prescription drug abuse.
Most Americans would be hard pressed to find someone in their family and social circles not touched by the opioid crisis in some capacity. While at the same time, one of the richest families in the United States suffers little to no consequences for spurring a crisis currently ravaging the country.
Stroke Victims to Be Given Psychedelic Drug DMT in First-Ever US Clinical Trials
The hallucinogenic drug DMT (dimethyltriptamine) could provide crucial aid to stroke victims by minimizing the damage inflicted on victims’ brains as they are rushed to the hospital, according to researchers.
Canadian company Algernon Pharmaceuticals has laid out plans to microdose participants in the first clinical trial of its kind in hopes to help stroke victims’ brains recover faster through a “rewiring” process, reports Metro.
A stroke occurs when blood supplies to a part of the brain is drastically reduced or interrupted, starving the vital organ of fresh oxygen and nutrients and setting in motion the death of crucial nerve cells. In some cases, stroke can even lead to death. About 795,000 people suffer from strokes annually in the U.S.
However, researchers at Algernon argue that DMT could play a key role in staving off the worst effects of stroke by sparking the growth of new neurons, effectively turbo-charging the healing process.
In the first-ever clinical trials of this kind in the U.S., DMT will soon be administered to stroke patients in the back of ambulances. While the doses will be far too small to trigger any sort of hallucinations, scientists are claiming that the microdoses will still be sufficient for conferring benefits.
The Phase 1 trials could begin as soon as next month, if they receive a green light from authorities. It could still take years before the drug receives approval for human use.
Algernon CEO Christopher Moreau is hopeful that the drug will prove its ability to help heal the brains of those who suffer from a stroke.
“Since we’re dealing with stroke patients, we will be using the sub-hallucinogenic dose, which in pre-clinical studies has still shown to improve neuroplasticity,” Moreau explained.
“It will help the brain heal even though patients aren’t having the psychedelic experience, and we really don’t want that if your patient has just had a stroke,” he continued. “The sooner you can start to treat post-injury the better.”
However, the drug could likely have its limits.
“DMT may not benefit hemorrhagic (stroke victims), we don’t know, but we’re hoping it won’t cause them any problems because then we don’t have to wait for the CT scan, we can treat in the ambulance,” Moreau added.
DMT – also known as the “spirit molecule” for its extremely potent hallucinogenic properties – is one of the main psychoactive compounds found in ayahuasca, a brew consumed in shamanistic rituals that has been used for centuries in South America before finding its way into North America and Europe as a recreational drug popular at music festivals.
Experts and users of DMT have said that the drug has a similar impact to such other psychedelic drugs as LSD and psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms. However, the psychedelic experience or so-called “trip” from DMT is much shorter in duration than either of the other psychedelic drugs.
Studies of DMT have shown that it does have the ability to improve motor functions, and in tests on brain-damaged rats it helped trigger the formation of new brain cells.
Moreau claims that studies have shown that within hours of a stroke, the brain attempts to rewire itself – and that DMT may potentially accelerate the process.
At present, patients have little recourse in the immediate aftermath of a stroke because doctors seldom know what type of stroke someone may be suffering from. While ischemic strokes involving blood clots require blood thinner as treatment, hemorrhagic strokes require more invasive treatment.
However, the wrong type of treatment for a stroke could be fatal for patients.
Algernon hopes that if the first phase of trials prove successful, regulators will approve the more widespread usage of the treatment. In the second and third phases of the trial, Algernon hopes to continue DMT treatments over the short and long term to prove the efficacy of the treatment.
U.S. Files Lawsuit Against Walmart for Role in Fueling Opioid Crisis
In a new lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Walmart corporation has been accused of helping to fuel the opioid crisis by knowingly filling out thousands of suspicious subscriptions and failing to report the orders to authorities. The DOJ says that the company could be facing billions of dollars in civil penalties if the court rules against them.
The lawsuit claims that Walmart was being investigated for years due to its lenient policy on opioid prescriptions. The company is being accused of violating the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) at its pharmacies and its wholesale drug distribution centers.
Walmart responded to the lawsuit and the allegations with a statement denying the charges, insisting that the lawsuit is based on “a legal theory that unlawfully forces pharmacists to come between patients and their doctors” and “cherry-picked documents taken out of context.”
The DOJ claims that Walmart “knowingly filled thousands of controlled substance prescriptions that were not issued for legitimate medical purposes.”
The company claimed that they did actually report cases to the DEA, and suggested that they were being blamed for the DEA’s own failures.
“In contrast to DEA’s own failures, Walmart always empowered our pharmacists to refuse to fill problematic opioids prescriptions, and they refused to fill hundreds of thousands of such prescriptions. Walmart sent DEA tens of thousands of investigative leads, and we blocked thousands of questionable doctors from having their opioid prescriptions filled at our pharmacies,” a statement from the company read, according to CNN Business.
This lawsuit is just the most recent of many actions that the DOJ has carried out against large corporations that played a role in the opioid crisis. Earlier this year, OxyContin producer Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to three federal criminal charges for the role that it played in the ongoing opioid crisis.
Justice Department officials said that the company will be pleading guilty as part of a settlement worth over $8 billion.
In the settlement, Purdue will pay $225 million directly to the government and will give up an additional $2 billion to the government through criminal asset forfeiture. The company also faces a $3.54 billion criminal fine, but this money may not be collected due to bankruptcy. Purdue also owes $2.8 billion in damages to cover lawsuits that victims have brought against the company.
The company will be pleading guilty to three federal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The company admitted to pushing doctors to prescribe more opioids than they would have otherwise. Investigations into dozens of companies are currently ongoing, and more announcements are expected to come in the following months, with the potential of more charges against corporations that have yet to be named.
Some critics of the industry feel that the lawsuits do not go far enough, pointing out that most people would be facing harsh prison sentences if they were accused of selling drugs to the extent that these companies did.
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