|Arthur Sackler (Wikipedia photo)|
Patrick Radden Keefe writes for The New Yorker, "Sales representatives marketed OxyContin as a product 'to start with and to stay with.' Millions of patients found the drug to be a vital salve for excruciating pain. But many others grew so hooked on it that, between doses, they experienced debilitating withdrawal. Since 1999, two hundred thousand Americans have died from overdoses related to OxyContin and other prescription opioids. Many addicts, finding prescription painkillers too expensive or too difficult to obtain, have turned to heroin. According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, four out of five people who try heroin today started with prescription painkillers."
In 2007, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay a civil penalty of $600 million for misleading doctors, patients and regulators about the addictive nature of OxyContin. That avoided a trial and testimony, but Richard Sackler had to give a deposition in a suit filed by the state of Kentucky, similarly charging the company with deceptive marketing that had created the epidemic, costing the state dearly. The suit was filed in Pike County, at the eastern end of the state; in a bid to get the case moved, Purdue Pharma did a survey that “was revealing in ways that Purdue may not have intended: according to the filing, twenty-nine per cent of the county’s residents said that they or their family members knew someone who had died from using OxyContin,” Keefe reports. “Seven out of ten respondents described OxyContin’s effect on their community as “'devastating.'”
The case was settled for $24 million, but not before Richard Sackler had to give a deposition, Keefe reports: “Tyler Thompson, the lead attorney, told me that Sackler’s demeanor during the session reminded him of Jeremy Irons’s portrayal of Claus von Bülow, the aristocrat accused of murdering his wife, in the 1990 bio-pic 'Reversal of Fortune.' "A smirk and a so-what attitude—an absolute lack of remorse,' Thompson said. 'It reminded me of these mining companies that come in here and do mountaintop removal, and leave a mess and just move on."” The deposition remains sealed; Purdue Pharma is appealing the judge's ruling, in a suit by the medical-and-science news site Stat, that it should be public.
There's much more in the two long articles, but here's a passage from Esquire with ironic resonance. In a memoir, Arthur's second wife Marietta Lutze said he became obsessed with collecting art:
"Boxes of artifacts of tremendous value piled up in numerous storage locations," she wrote. "There was too much to open, too much to appreciate; some objects known only by a packing list." Under an avalanche of "ritual bronzes and weapons, mirrors and ceramics, inscribed bones and archaic jades," their lives were "often in chaos. . . . Addiction is a curse, be it drugs, women, or collecting."