September 11, 2019

AG files suit against Sackler family over opioids

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New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas.

As opioid manufacturers face increasing pressure over their role in the widening opioid epidemic across the United States, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas announced a lawsuit against eight members of the Sackler family, who own and operate Purdue Pharma. 

Balderas called the family “perhaps the most deadly drug dealers in the world” and said the company used deceitful and illegal practices to market and sell opioids in the state.

“Because of their illegal actions, New Mexico faces some of the highest opioid related death numbers in the nation, and we have whole communities here in New Mexico which will never be the same again,” Balderas said. “Today I am seeking to hold them accountable and to help end New Mexico’s crisis and avoid more lives being lost.”

The Sacklers agreed to give up “the entire value” of Purdue Pharma to settle lawsuits against the company according to a statement provided to NPR this week. The company is facing a reported 2,000 lawsuits and billions of dollars worth of damages related to their marketing and sales of opioids. The company is expected to file for bankruptcy this week, as early as Wednesday, according to multiple media reports.

The lawsuit says Purdue Pharma marketed opioids as safe and non-addictive, and “borrow[ed] from the tobacco industry’s playbook.”

The suit also notes that New Mexico “has had one of the highest rates of drug overdose death rates in the United States” and that the rate of opioid overdose deaths in Rio Arriba and Mora counties are particularly high.

The Attorney General’s office said the state filed suit against the family because Purdue Pharma is not a publicly traded company and its sole stockholders are the family members.