SCOTUS Ruling Puts Big Pharma Family Back in the Hot Seat

( – The US Supreme Court has ruled to block a bankruptcy deal that had granted immunity to the family that owns Purdue Pharma. Following the verdict, the case will return to lower courts, resulting in victims of the opioid crisis taking longer to reach a financial settlement. The Sackler family members, along with several associates, were granted protection by the bankruptcy ruling in 2023.

After the 5-4 vote to block the bankruptcy deal, Justice Neil Gorsuch, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in the majority’s decision. He stated that the Sacklers cannot be alleviated of their responsibility to contribute towards a settlement of up to $6 billion. The Sacklers had not personally filed for bankruptcy.

Democratic Illinois Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi said in a 2020 post on Instagram that he was “disgusted” that Purdue Pharma’s CEO, Craig Landau, refused to commit to forgoing a $3 million bonus, which the Democrat argued the CEO would be given at the expense of the opioid epidemic’s victims.

Landau’s leadership lies at the root of the company’s bankruptcy in 2019, before Purdue Pharma confessed to having committed federal crimes relating to the sale of opioids. A federal bankruptcy judge approved the controversial $3 million bonus, which the company’s board rewarded Landau in 2020.

Landau said he did nothing wrong personally but that he regretted the damage the company had caused by producing OxyContin. This narcotic painkiller is only available by prescription in the US. Recreational use of OxyContin is illegal; under the Controlled Substances Act, the drug is classed as a Schedule II substance, which places it alongside methamphetamine and cocaine as a drug that has a high potential for abuse.

Members of the Sackler family announced they would not give up on pushing for a deal. They threatened that the ruling would result in an expensive and chaotic alternative as victims seek financial settlements. The Biden administration and families of overdose victims celebrated the verdict, having argued that the bankruptcy deal was a misuse of the justice system.

Ellen Isaacs, who lost her son, Patrick Ryan Wroblewski, to an overdose at the age of 33 in 2018, expressed her gratitude to the Supreme Court. Following the verdict, Isaacs was optimistic that she would get justice for her son’s death. She said she wanted the Sackler family members to be held fully responsible for the damage caused by the drug.

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