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Sackler Family Led Effort to Mislead Public About OxyContin, Opioids, Emails Show

Members of the Sackler family—owners of the OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma—directed years of efforts to mislead the public about the opioid, according to previously undisclosed documents. An email from 2001 shows that, when evidence of growing abuse of the painkiller became clear, former company President Richard Sackler instructed executives to try to push blame onto people who had become addicted. “We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible... They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals,” he wrote. Another shows him responding to poor sales, saying: “I had hoped for better results... What else more can we do to energize the sales and grow at a faster rate?” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued Purdue Pharma and eight Sackler family members for allegedly contributing to the state’s opioid epidemic through its marketing of OxyContin. The emails are the first evidence that appears to tie the Sacklers—major donors to arts and education institutions on two continents—to decisions made by the company about marketing. Purdue Pharma has previously argued the Sackler family was removed from the day-to-day running of the company.