Nov 24, 2020 - Health

OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma pleads guilty to three criminal charges

Purdue Pharma headquarters stands in downtown Stamford, April 2, 2019 in Stamford, Connecticut.

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Purdue Pharma, the maker of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to three criminal charges, AP reports.

Why it matters: The plea signals the company's admission it played a role in the opioid epidemic that has contributed to nearly half a million deaths over the past two decades.

In a virtual hearing on Tuesday, the Stamford, Connecticut company admitted:

  • It impeded the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s efforts to combat the addiction crisis.
  • It had not maintained an effective program in preventing any black market sales. Purdue also gave misleading information to the DEA in order to boost manufacturing quotas.
  • It also admitted paying doctors through a speakers program as an incentive to prescribe painkillers.

The big picture: The plea is one part of a slew of legal and financial troubles for the opioid manufacturer.

  • Purdue earlier agreed to pay $225 million out of the $8.3 billion in penalties and forfeitures owed to the federal government.
  • Members of the wealthy Sackler family who own the company have also agreed to pay $225 million to the federal government to settle civil claims.

Yes, but: Advocates and several attorneys general say the plea does little for the lives lost and the ongoing opioid crisis, which has worsened throughout the coronavirus pandemic, early data shows.

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