Purdue Pharma building
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Hulu’s ‘Dopesick’ Puts Spotlight on Purdue Pharma and Opioid Crisis


Oct. 15 2021, Published 10:40 a.m. ET

Purdue Pharma is one of the most successful pharmaceutical companies in the world. The company has left the Sackler family with an abundance of wealth. However, the family’s name might be forever tarnished due to the OxyContin opioid crisis. Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty twice to federal crimes that surround the unethical marketing of OxyContin. The Sackler family will relinquish Purdue Pharma once its bankruptcy agreement goes into effect. What happened to Purdue Pharma?

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Dopesick is one of Hulu's most popular shows. The show puts a spotlight on how OxyContin was falsely marketed towards doctors and other clients. The series also puts a lens on how business might have been conducted internally for Purdue Pharma. Danny Strong, the producer and director of the show, was outraged by the story of Purdue Pharma and OxyContin. Dopesick is an eight-episode series and the first three episodes debuted on Oct. 13.

Source: Getty Images
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Purdue Pharma is a pharmaceutical company that has distributed products to hospitals, doctors, and other medical entities for decades. Originally, it sold items like ear wax removers and laxatives. Purdue Pharma was founded in 1892 by two medical doctors. The company was originally called the Purdue Frederick Company until it rebranded to Purdue Pharma in 1991.

As the company grew, the two doctors sold it to the Sackler brothers, Raymond and Mortimer, in 1952. Another Sackler brother, Arthur, held ownership in the company as well but he passed away in 1987. He passed away before Purdue Pharma created the infamous OxyContin narcotic. Because Arthur was the first brother to pass away, his ownership was sold to his brothers.

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None of Arthur’s heirs have earned money from the sale of OxyContin, which was one of the factors that led to the Sackler family turmoil.

According to estimates from Forbes, the Sackler family had a net worth of $13 billion in 2016. Many members in the tree family branches are successful. Multiple family members have careers in the medical field, some tied to Purdue Pharma and some not. Even with the amount of success they’ve had throughout the years, some family members have disassociated themselves from the blame of the OxyContin opioid crisis.

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According to The Guardian, family members of the Arthur Sackler branch think that he wouldn't have supported the sale of OxyContin.

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Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy finalization issues

Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, which many people claim is the Sackler family’s way of escaping liability from a multi-state lawsuit. In the terms of the bankruptcy agreement, the Sackler family agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a settlement to those who have been affected by the OxyContin opioid crisis.

Another part of the settlement is that the family is immune from being held liable for any lawsuits involving the private pharmaceutical company as well as any person who has been affected by the opioid. Purdue Pharma will also be reorganized to shift its focus to helping those who have been affected by the opioid crisis.

Amid the bankruptcy agreement, multiple states don't favor the ruling. They have filed appeals on the $4.5 billion settlement. On Oct. 13, a U.S. District Court Judge denied the request to pause the bankruptcy process in order for the appeal cases to happen first. State officials are concerned that if the bankruptcy agreement is finalized, the appeals will be dismissed since the family isn't held liable when the agreement goes into effect.


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