Fentanyl is like a ghost, everyone knows it’s out there, but nobody knows whether or how much fentanyl might be in their shot of heroin or line of cocaine. Everyone knows it’s an important question because too much fentanyl is – right now – killing more Americans than any other opioid drug. The latest figures are from 2017, but most drug experts say, the 2018 statistics will show the same phenomenon: more and more people are tangling with fentanyl and winding up dead.
Just a couple of years ago, the opioid that was killing the most users in America was OxyContin, and there’s evidence that a lot of the people killed by fentanyl, just like a lot of the people killed by heroin, got their opioid compulsion, their addiction from taking OxyContin.
The makers of OxyContin were Perdue Pharma, largely owned and operated by the Sackler family. Perdue and three of its top executives plead guilty in federal court in 2007 to misleading regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential for abuse.
Since that settlement, for more than $600 million, Perdue and now members of the Sackler family, are being sued in state and federal courts for the damage OxyContin did to addicts and their families and the government agencies stuck with taking care of them. Four years ago Kentucky got $24 million and this March Oklahoma got $270 million, $75 million of which is coming from the Sacklers.
Observers noted that the Sackler contribution had not been explicitly demanded in the suit and was made to suggest the family felt contrition for what they had done. So does the Perdue response to a possible national scale settlement of the opioid over-prescription crisis: ““The company is committed to working with all parties toward a resolution that helps bring needed solutions to communities and states to address this public health crisis.”
This is a sharp contrast to Cardinal Health, the mega distributor of drugs accused of, at best ignoring, at worst, facilitating egregiously overscale orders of OxyContin and other opioid prescription drugs. Cardinal’s lawyers suggested that the one big class action settlement would be opposed with endless litigation.
Meanwhile, the Sackler’s pious pose took a tremendous smack just a few weeks ago, when the Associated Press revealed an Italian investigation into how the international branch of Perdue Pharma, Mundipharma, a company with ties to at least two prominent Sacklers, pushed their drug, using the same deceits they’re acting sorry about in the U.S..
Claire Galofaro reports for the Associated Press from her base in Louisville, KY. Her national assignments have her following the opioid addiction crisis in the United States. Aided by a grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, she and her Rome-based AP colleague Frances D’Emilio were able to report out the Italian police investigation of MundiPharma and Dr. Guido Fanelli.