BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — After the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement deal with Purdue Pharma for its role in the nation's opioid crisis, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said she is "not done" with the pharmaceutical giant or the family that owns it.
The DOJ said Wednesday that Purdue Pharma, the maker of the powerful painkiller OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges in connection with its role in creating the national opioid epidemic, which has been linked to more than 470,000 deaths since 2000.
"DOJ failed. Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election," Healey said. "I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long."
According to a copy of the plea agreement obtained by the AP, Purdue will admit that it "knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet" the dispensing of the medication from doctors "without a legitimate medical purpose, and outside the usual course of professional practice."
Purdue will also admit to paying doctors through a speaking program, in order to induce them to write more prescriptions for OxyContin, in violation of federal anti-kickback laws.
The company will admit to using electronic health records software to influence the prescription of pain medication, and it will admit that it falsely represented to the Drug Enforcement Administration that it had maintained an effective drug diversion program between 2007 and 2017. It will also admit to reporting misleading information to the DEA in order to boost the company's manufacturing quotas.
According to the terms of the settlement, Purdue will pay $8.3 billion, and close the company. It will be required to reorganize itself into a public benefit company, and the fines will go to funding various overdose rescue drugs and treatments to help communities hit hardest by the opioid crisis.
The Sackler family, which owns Purdue, will also pay $225 million in civil penalties. While the family is not being criminally charged, the DOJ's agreement does not shield them from potential criminal charges in the future.
Before the settlement was announced, dozens of Democratic members of Congress had written to Attorney General Bill Barr, urging him not to make the deal with Purdue and the Sacklers, because they said the bargain would not hold them properly accountable. The lawmakers also raised concerns about some of the details of the deal.
"Millions of American families impacted by the opioid epidemic are looking to you and your Department for justice," the 38 Democratic members of Congress wrote. "Justice for the sleepless nights spent worrying about sons and daughters trapped in the grip of substance use disorder, justice for the jobs lost and the lives ruined, and justice for the lives of loved ones lost to overdoses. If the only practical consequence of your Department's investigation is that a handful of billionaires are made slightly less rich, we fear that the American people will lose faith in the ability of the Department to provide accountability and equal justice under the law."
In all, the company is still facing some 2,600 lawsuits, mostly from local governments, in connection to its role in creating the national opioid crisis.
As CBS reports, half of all U.S. state governments have opposed the DOJ's settlement, and they are pushing in bankruptcy court for documents that would make clear exactly how much the members of the Sackler family made from the sales of the painkiller over the years. The DOJ's settlement agreement must still be approved by a federal bankruptcy court.
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