Purdue Pharma Pleads Guilty in Federal Case, Admits to Contributing to Opioid Epidemic

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty Tuesday before a federal court in Newark, New Jersey for promoting opioid prescriptions and lying to customers about the dangers of the highly addictive drugs, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,”  Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen said in a statement Tuesday. 

Rosen added, “Today’s guilty pleas to three felony charges send a strong message to the pharmaceutical industry that illegal behavior will have serious consequences.  Further, today’s convictions underscore the department’s commitment to its multi-pronged strategy for defeating the opioid crisis.”

Purdue now faces three felony charges. That includes one count of dual-object 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, the press release stated.

Purdue admitted that it had misled Americans about the dangers of opioid medications, which are highly addictive and have contributed to an epidemic of addiction in the U.S. that kills thousands of Americans each year.

Between May 2007 through at least March 2017, Purdue lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) about having an “anti diversion program” in place, while it continued to market opioids to over 100 health care providers believed to be “diverting opioids.”

Purdue also lied to the DEA about its manufacturing quotas. Moreover, Rachael A. Honig, First Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey said in a statement Tuesday that “The company lied to the Drug Enforcement Administration about steps it had taken to prevent such diversion, fraudulently increasing the amount of its products it was permitted to sell. Purdue also paid kickbacks to providers to encourage them to prescribe even more of its products.”

The drug company also admitted to conspiring to violate the federal Anti-Kickback Statute, which “prohibits the knowing and willful payment of ’emuneration’ to induce or reward patient referrals or the generation of business involving any item or service payable by the Federal health care programs.”

Additionally, between June 2009 and March 2017, Purdue said it paid two doctors through ‘Purdue’s doctor speaker program’ to encourage other doctors to prescribe more opioids to patients.  From April 2016 through December 2016, Purdue paid Practice Fusion Inc., an electronic health records company, to ‘refer, recommend, and arrange’ for orders of OxyContin, Butrans, and Hysingla, which are extended-release opioids.

Purdue is expected to pay $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeitures, under the terms of the plea agreement. The company will have to pay $225 million of the aforementioned monies within three business days following the entry of conviction. The DOJ says it will credit that money to state and local governments.

Purdue will also allow the U.S. government to a “general unsecured bankruptcy claim for recovery of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.” The Sackler family, which owns Purdue, will be required to pay $225 million in damages.

Jennie Taer

Jennie Taer