Purdue’s Sackler Allegedly Called Opioid Addicts ‘Victimizers’

By Erik Larson and Jef Feeley | May 7, 2019

Purdue Pharma LP’s former chief executive officer appeared to blame victims of opioid abuse for their suffering in a 2001 email to an acquaintance, a court filing shows.

“Abusers aren’t victims; they are the victimizers,” Richard Sackler said in the email, according to previously undisclosed messages added to a lawsuit by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong.

Excerpts of exchanges between Sackler and an unidentified friend were included in an amended complaint filed Monday against Purdue and the billionaire Sackler family by Tong, a Democrat who took office in January.

The attorneys general from New York and Massachusetts have filed similar complaints accusing Purdue and the Sacklers of triggering a U.S. addiction epidemic with their allegedly excessive marketing of the highly addictive Oxycontin painkiller. The cases have created a potentially massive legal liability that has led Purdue to threaten to file for bankruptcy protection.

“Richard Sackler’s outrageous comments show an utter disregard for human life,” Tong said Tuesday in a statement about his new complaint. “These emails are far more than a momentary lapse in judgment between friends — they encapsulate the depraved indifference to human suffering that infected Purdue’s entire business model.”

Representatives for the Sackler family didn’t immediately respond to email messages seeking comment. Purdue and the Sacklers have repeatedly denied wrongdoing and called such lawsuits misguided attempts to place blame for a national crisis.

According to Tong’s complaint, Sackler’s comment about addicts being victimizers was made in response to his acquaintance claiming that opioid abusers made the choice to die.

“Abusers die, well that is the choice they made, I doubt a single one didn’t know of the risks,” the acquaintance said, according to the complaint.

Also in 2001, Sackler’s friend lamented that the “general ignorant public” was looking for a scapegoat. According to the suit, Sackler responds by saying he’s not allowed to make such a claim without triggering a liberal backlash.

“Unfortunately, when I’m ambushed by 60 Minutes, I can’t easily get this concept across,” Sackler said in response, according to the complaint. “Calling drug addicts ‘scum of the earth’ will guarantee that I become the poster child for liberals who want to do just want [sic] to distribute the blame to someone else, as you say.”

The case is State of Connecticut v. Purdue Pharma LP, X07 HHD-CV-19-6105325-S, Connecticut Superior Court (Hartford).

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