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As Drugmakers Face Opioid Lawsuits, Some Ask: Why Not Criminal Charges Too?
September 19, 20196:37 PM ET
Purdue Pharma, facing a mountain of litigation linked to the opioid epidemic, filed for bankruptcy in New York week of September 16, 2019.. The OxyContin manufacturer and its owners, the Sackler family, have offered to pay billions of dollars to cities and counties hit hard by the addiction crisis.
Purdue and other drug companies have been forced to pay out hundreds of millions of dollars so far in civil lawsuits, which currently number more than 2,000 across the U.S.
Prosecutors say evidence shows these firms pushed highly addictive opioid pain medication while downplaying the risk of addiction and overdose. They say executives engaged in racketeering and conspiracy, misleading doctors, insurance companies and government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.
But the legal action has largely remained in the civil sphere, and Rose thinks it's time for prosecutors to start treating drug companies as criminal enterprises for their role in an epidemic that — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — claimed nearly 400,000 lives between 1999 and 2017.
Sen. Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, has called for hearings to investigate why the Justice Department hasn't put more of these drug company executives on trial. She's also demanding that the Justice Department give her office a full copy of a 2006 prosecution memo focusing on Purdue, parts of which appeared in The New York Times last year.
Hassan says she believes the document will show that some federal attorneys wanted more serious criminal charges filed against Purdue.
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