Reuters / George Frey

Members of the Sackler family—owners of the OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma—directed years of efforts to mislead the public about the opioid, according to previously undisclosed documents. An email from 2001 shows that, when evidence of growing abuse of the painkiller became clear, former company President Richard Sackler instructed executives to try to push blame onto people who had become addicted. “We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible… They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals,” he wrote.

Another shows him responding to poor sales, saying: “I had hoped for better results… What else more can we do to energize the sales and grow at a faster rate?” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey has sued Purdue Pharma and eight Sackler family members for allegedly contributing to the state’s opioid epidemic through its marketing of OxyContin.

The emails are the first evidence that appears to tie the Sacklers—major donors to arts and education institutions on two continents—to decisions made by the company about marketing. Purdue Pharma has previously argued the Sackler family was removed from the day-to-day running of the company.



… we have a small favour to ask. Hurn Publications is editorially independent, meaning we set our own agenda. Our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important because it enables us to give a voice to the voiceless, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. It’s what makes us different to so many others in the media, at a time when factual, honest reporting is critical.

If everyone who reads our reporting and writing, who likes it, helps to support it, our future would be much more secure. We ask that you follow us and subscribe to our publication.