Oliver and his staff delve into some details that Netflix’s narrative didn’t have space to fully explain. The most notable aspect is that not only has no member of the Sackler family been charged in connection with the marketing of OxyContin, if this plea deal is approved, none of them ever will. In having Purdue Pharma declare bankruptcy, the Sackler family essentially consolidated the many lawsuits against the company into one $10 billion settlement (of which they’ll contribute $6 billion, up from the previous $4.5 billion number).
As part of that deal, however, the family negotiated language that they will not be subject to further civil claims on the matter as part of a “Non-Consensual Third Party Release.” That agreement reads, in part: “…the Shareholder Releases Parties shall be conclusively, absolutely, unconditionally, irrevocably, fully, finally, forever and permanently released…” and includes the names of over 200 companies and trusts as the Shareholder Releases Parties.
It’s no wonder then why Richard Sackler expected a favorable response from the Arthur in his head.
What Is the Status of the Purdue Pharma Settlement?
The closing text in Painkiller notes that “as of March 2023, final approval for Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy is still pending.” As fate would have it, there was a major development regarding that approval on Aug. 10 – the very day that the show premiered.
On that date, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked Purdue Pharma’s bankruptcy proceedings from moving forward. The U.S. Trustee Program, under the federal government’s Department of Justice, has argued that the agreement violates American citizens’ constitutional rights to “due process” by depriving them an opportunity to seek further litigation against the Sackler family. In granting certiorari (releasing a document that says they will hear a case), the Supreme Court announced that they will hear oral arguments in Harrington v. Purdue this December.
Is OxyContin Still Legal?
OxyContin is still legal … for the most part. Purdue Pharma’s signature product has experienced an evolving legal status as the opioid epidemic progressed. In 2013, the FDA banned generic pills that included the original time-release OxyContin formula (Purdue Pharma discontinued that product design itself in 2010 because it could be easily crushed into a powder). In 2018, Purdue Pharma reported that it would stop recommending the drug to doctors altogether.