In the latest news about the Sackler family that owns and operates Purdue Pharma, we have a pair of stories, one leading to the other. Both show just scheming this drug company has been and even still is as it faces intense government and public scrutiny. 

First on August 27th, there were widespread reports that Purdue Pharma, which was working with national and state government to settle its outstanding opioid abuse claims, made the bold statement that if it could not get all its accusers to settle on a favorable agreement it would declare bankruptcy which would make it so that it did not have to pay the same damages it would have otherwise. This was basically a “do it our way, or we will do everything we can to avoid as much responsibility as possible.” The pronouncement came from one of the companies that was allowing doctors of small cities to prescribe sometimes hundreds of more pills, per person, than were necessary.

Filing for bankruptcy would protect Purdue Pharma from some of its debts and help shield it from angry prosecutors and customers. Naturally, state prosecutors did not simply back down because the company they were after was setting up legal roadblocks. Unfortunately, Purdue Pharma did exactly what it said it would do. 

On September 15, the drug maker followed up on its threat to declare bankruptcy, but only after its controlling family started moving large sums of money overseas. The New York attorney general said that it was keeping tabs on wire transfers made back the Sacklers that added up to at least a billion dollars. With the money safely moved, the bankruptcy could then be declared while shielding much of that money from national and state claims. The Sacklers claim that all the transfers, some of which bounced through iconic Swiss bank accounts, were perfectly normal. 

On one hand, it is good to see that law enforcement agencies have begun to put major pressure on opioid makers, but the options these companies have available to them when trying to avoid responsibility for the epidemic they caused.