The family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma directed attempts to play down the dangers of the opioid painkiller, suggest previously undisclosed documents included in a court filing by the attorney general of Massachusetts.
The filing includes emails and other internal Purdue communications that mention the Sackler family. It's the first evidence that appears to link the family with specific decisions made by Purdue about the marketing of OxyContin, which contributed to the U.S. opioid epidemic, The New York Times reported.
In one email, Richard Sackler suggests blaming addicts when the growing problem of opioid abuse became apparent in the early 2000s.
"We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible," he wrote in the email in 2001, when he was president of Purdue Pharma. "They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals."
Sackler, the son of a company founder, said sales representatives should advise doctors to prescribe the highest dosage of the powerful drug because it was the most profitable, according to the court filing, The Times reported.
OxyContin came on the market in 1996, Since then, there have been more than 200,000 prescription opioid overdose deaths in the U.S.
Purdue Pharma has long contended that the Sackler family was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the company. The Sacklers are one of the richest families in the U.S. and their name is on museums and medical schools worldwide, The Times reported.
The court filing is "littered with biases and inaccurate characterizations," according to a statement from Purdue Pharma, which dismissed suggestions of wrongdoing by it or the Sackler family.