New: A weekly newsletter about the trends shaping cities

Stories

David Sackler says his family didn't cause the opioid crisis

Members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, have notoriously avoided the media, but David Sackler broke the silence by speaking with Bethany McLean of Vanity Fair to say his family "didn't cause the [opioid] crisis."

What he said: Sackler conceded that marketing claims saying OxyContin had small risks of abuse and addiction were wrong, but argued they were based on the science at the time.

  • He also said people should "look at all the good Purdue has done … it's overwhelming what the company over the years was trying to do to fix this problem."

Yes, but: Reporting in the Los Angeles TimesProPublica and elsewhere shows the company, led by the Sacklers, knew about the problems with OxyContin and other prescription opioids for years and still encouraged aggressive prescribing to boost sales.

  • One of the most damning examples come from company emails that show David's father, Richard, agreeing with a plan not to tell doctors that OxyContin is a stronger painkiller than morphine.

Go deeper: Richard Sackler endorsed plan to mislead about OxyContin's potency