$8 billion might sound like a lotta loot, but to the drug dealing Sacklers it's just the cost of doing business -- and staying outta jail!
Getting Away with Mass Murder
By now you've heard the news. How could you not? It was everywhere. Drug giant Purdue Pharma pled guilty to illicitly selling OxyContin to millions of Americans. It was an extraordinary admission. It also came at extraordinary cost. A whopping $8.3 billion, as well as an agreement to shutter the company.
Yet for all the widespread reporting, the news came and went without leaving much more than a ripple. In fact, outlet after outlet barely said it was more than the same boring story. "Purdue Pharma to Plead Guilty..." yawned both CNN and the BBC. Even the usually depth-defying Stat stuck to the shallows. It all seemed extremely odd, especially considering the overwhelming toll opioids have taken on the country.
What was going on? A culprit gets convicted for masterminding a diabolical scheme that killed more people than the coronavirus yet nobody really cares? Has all the recent lying and cheating and stealing and hating really knocked the empathy right out of the country? Or are we all simply not interested in watching yet another group of billionaires get away with murder?
Turns out it's a combination of all of the above -- and then some. Americans still do care about our fellow Americans. To a large extent anyway. But we're also suffering from extreme compassion fatigue. Then there's the very vocal efforts of the Me First crowd. The one-two punch doesn't give empathy much of a chance.
There's also the unfairness of the sentence itself. $8 billion is nothing more than a hand-slap for Purdue and the drug dealing Sacklers. In fact, it adds up to a perhaps 5% of the revenue generated by OxyContin. Not a bad return on investment. Especially considering only a fraction of that figure will ever be collected.
Oh, and that whole shuttering of the company business? That's a falsehood. Purdue Pharma will not be shut down. Instead, it will reorganise as a new company run by a trust for the "public benefit." Even better, the company will continue to produce OxyContin!
Ain't that special?
And What of the Drug Dealing Sacklers?
The mirage of shuttering Purdue Pharma also helps the company avoid having to pay the 2800 cities and counties that have filed suit against the drug dealing Sacklers. After all, a kaput company surely can't be expected to meet its financial obligations. Even if it's not really kaput. Nobody's saying what will happen to the $10 billion the family snuck from the company while the case was repeatedly being delayed.
To be fair, some outlets did do more than perfunctorily report the sordid and barely-believable story. And more than a few officials were up in arms over the transparent miscarriage of justice. Of the former, The Guardian led with Fed-Up!'s call for "prison time" and the New York Times noted how little solace there'd be for the survivors.
Not lost on anyone was the fact that it was Rudy Giuliani who'd previously helped the Sacklers avoid jail time, nor that there's an election just around the corner. Those facts were especially not lost on the States' Attorneys General who are still seeking comeuppance.
"This settlement provides a mere mirage of justice for the victims of Purdue's callous misconduct," said Connecticut Attorney General William Tong. "The federal government had the power here to put the Sacklers in jail, and they didn't. Instead, they took fines and penalties that Purdue likely will never fully pay."
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey was equally dismissive of the verdict. In fact, she said the US justice department has “failed” and accused the administration of selling out families hit by the epidemic.
“Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable," said Healey, "not rushing a settlement to beat an election."
"I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers," she added.
Emily Walden, chair of the Fed Up! coalition of families harmed by opioids, was more sanguine. Then again, Walden's not only been on the front lines on behalf of hundreds of thousands of American families, but she herself lost a son to opioids.
"I was very glad to hear, finally, the federal government saying that this is a felony," said Walden. "At the same time, they’re already in bankruptcy. What penalty is there?"
"This is a free country," she added. "You can make as much money as you want to, and that is all fine and good. But we need prison time when you start killing people."
Recovery Boot Camp
Purdue Pharma and the drug dealing Sacklers have been on our mind here at Recovery Boot Camp for quite some time. In fact, we've twice reported on the story. The first time we compared the Sacklers to the Corleone Family of Godfather fame; the second time we suggested the pill-pushers might want to pop a few of their own painkillers. Both times we were aghast by the blatant disregard this family has shown the people, as well as the country. And both times we called for swift and due justice. We've seen first hand, over and over, again and again, just how devastating this opioid crisis has been to America. And it breaks our hearts to see how billionaires keep repeatedly getting away with murder, especially such mass murder.
Nevertheless, we won't stop fighting this scourge. Not till everyone gets the help they need -- and deserve. After all, we can't control the machinations of the Justice Department. We can however control the machinations in our own lives. In other words, nothing is going to keep us from fighting the good fight. Nothing whatsoever. So if you or a loved one needs help with substance abuse, please give us a call.